During a talk at the recent virtual conference held by the European Association for International Education, panellists discussed a study on the implementation of EU’s policy around disadvantaged students and ICM, which was carried out in January by the SPHERE consortium (University of Barcelona and the European University Association) on behalf of the European Commission.

“2% of the students who can demonstrably be shown to have been disadvantaged in the mobility is very low.”

The study found that just 2% of the total number of students who went on ICM mobility were reported as being disadvantaged or with special needs.

The European Commission is now looking at what actions can be taken to respond to the issues highlighted by the report.

“When looking at figures for ICM, the numbers of students reported in our systems as disadvantaged or with special needs was not very promising at that time. Only around 2% of the total number of students who went on ICM mobility were reported as belonging to one of these groups,” said Einarsen.

“This figure for ICM might increase as projects funded within the current program are still running and they will finish only in 2023, but I think it is safe to say that it was not a very satisfying result,” she added.

Howard Davies, head of European and Latin American development at London Metropolitan University, explained that the study found that although the grant levels in the current program were satisfactory there were problems with the delivery of the grants to students, delays and issues with banking requirements.

“More important perhaps for the partner country participants, was the distance calculation used by the  Commission.

“It seems to be predicated on direct flights, on single segment flights, whereas in fact for partner country students outgoing to program countries, three segment flights are more typical, and of course that rules out the possibility normally of accessing low budget or low cost airlines,” he said.

Davies explained that there are also problems with finance issues around obtaining visas, and that the definition of disadvantage in different countries was varied.

“The overall takeaway is that the Commission’s commitment to the mobility of disadvantaged students is very strong, is very laudable, but the outcome is actually disappointing – 2% of the students who can demonstrably be shown to have been disadvantaged in the mobility is very low.”

Einarsen announced a number of measures that would come into play by 2022 in the next Erasmus+ program.

She said that in terms of the financial aspects, the Commission would like to keep the current level of the grant as it is today.

“In addition, we are proposing to have a new unit cost which would support costs related to visa and insurance.

“So in addition to their individual and travel grants, we are also proposing to increase the organisational support. With the view of acknowledging the partnership dimension in ICM and the many costs linked to international mobility,” she said.

In terms of non-financial measures the Commission will offer more flexible opportunities such as the possibility to go on short term programs from between five and 30 days.

ICM students will also be offered online linguistic support to help reduce language barriers.

“The key message should be that Erasmus+ is for everyone, and the beneficiaries and partner universities and National Agency, they will play a vital role in achieving our objective,” she added.

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