Abolish that bureaucracy

August 1, 1997

The problem with Socrates (THES, July 18) is not simply that current arrangements are excessively bureaucratic. From the beginning of the Erasmus scheme, the arrangements have been such as to make it as difficult as possible to achieve the obviously desirable goal of European student mobility.

The only sensible thing to do is to abolish the whole central bureaucracy and make earmarked grants to individual institutions for the purpose. In this way, it would be possible to discover when students are making their course choices at the end of one academic year, which ones want to go, and who would benefit from it, letting them have a response within weeks. Any serious department knows of teachers in Europe to whose courses it is worth sending students. Instead, institutions have to bid for a contract in one summer in relation to students who will only begin to go abroad more than a year later.

I once put my simple proposal for reform to a member of a Erasmus advisory committee, but the prospect of an end to free trips to Brussels was not attractive.

Michael Crawford

University College London

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