European education ministers have warned that demand could far outstrip European Union funding when the new programme for educational exchanges and language learning gets off the ground.
Socrates, the EU education programme which replaces Erasmus and Lingua, was formally launched in Paris last week at a conference of education ministers broadcast live to universities and schools in Europe.
Pinpointing the "risk" inherent in Socrates, Nicole Fontaine, vice president of the European parliament said: "Make no mistake, by the next budget review in two years, demand will have become enormous . . . all establishments will want exchanges."
Spain's minister for education and science, Gustavo Suarez Pertierra, said he "hoped the resources would meet demand".
German science and culture minister for the Sarre Lander, Dieter Breitenbach, said "the budget will not meet all needs", but added that the programme is not "just a question of money, but of the individual commitment of all the universities and schools which organise partnerships".
He predicted that "students will have lower grants but the principle is that they will have access to exchanges funded by European, national or private sources".
However, European commissioner for education Edith Cresson denied that Euro-grants would be lower under Socrates than under Erasmus. "Students will not be penalised," she promised, arguing that most obstacles to European exchange arose from discrepancies between member states.
It was "absurd", she said, that "qualifications necessary for the exercise of a profession are now recognised in Europe, but the components of that qualification are not".
Yet, she went on, "when the Commission insists on recognition in exchange for community funding - by miracle - it becomes possible!" Mrs Cresson refused to be drawn on the problem of demand and available funding, insisting that the different national levels of grant and of social security for students and researchers were a far greater obstacle to mobility.
She announced that the Commission would produce a White Paper on education and training at the end of the year and called for more European courses and a European academic teaching corps.
French education minister Francois Bayrou said that the emergence of shared European education provision did not imply "a single, unifying culture".
"On the contrary, I believe Europe is the only chance to save our different cultural identities and languages," he said.