Brussels proposes fivefold boost in Erasmus funding

August 6, 2004

A fivefold explosion in funding for the European Union's Erasmus exchange programme has been proposed by the European Commission, which wants to increase spending to €5.8 billion (£3.8 billion) in 2007-2013 from €950 million in 2000-2006.

Brussels wants to at least triple the number of students using Erasmus from 123,957 in 2002 to 390,000 in 2013. It said expanding Erasmus would help the EU attain its objective of "making Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010".

Whether the commission can persuade EU ministers to approve such a dramatic increase - which it admitted was "ambitious" - remains to be seen.

The Dutch Government, which holds the presidency for the remainder of the year, said a "key theme" for its presidency would be "learning from each other", with "investing in human capital", especially education, seen as "important for encouraging economic growth and improving social cohesion".

But it also said it wanted to restrict growth in EU spending to 1 per cent in real terms for 2007-2013, while the commission wanted to spend more.

Pressure for a big increase in Erasmus funding could come from the Council of Ministers for Education, which held an informal meeting last week. It agreed that "intensifying cooperation" on education was a "first priority in their international policy".

Also, EU council secretariat documents show the Dutch want to achieve political agreement on "new programmes for education and training".

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