As the European Union's flagship Erasmus student exchange programme approaches its 20th birthday, Jan Figel, the EU Education Commissioner, has criticised it for failing poor students.
Mr Figel said: "The Erasmus grant remains far too low to allow students from less favourable financial backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of the programme. The Commission is calling for member states to increase their support for Erasmus, to open it up to even more students."
Erasmus grants vary from member state to member state. Although they do not provide all student expenses, the grants are, the Commission claims, supposed to "offset part of the difference in the cost of living in the other country".
But Mr Figel stressed that Erasmus had been a success. When it was launched in 1987, it attracted 3,244 students.By 2005, the number had risen to 144,032, or almost 1 per cent of European students. Some 20,877 EU lecturers, or 1.9 per cent, participate in the academic-exchange arm of Erasmus.
Mr Figel's comments came as the Commission launched a new tranche of scholarships under the "Erasmus Mundus" scheme for student and academic exchanges with non-EU states, including Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon.