Erasmus Plus : With Indian students steadily taking the foreign route for higher education, the European Union has been quick to acknowledge the country’s potential in the study abroad sector and aims to strengthen its higher education collaborations with India with a renewed drive. “India has the second highest number of internationally mobile students after China, travelling abroad for tertiary level education. On the other hand, Europe is recognised as the leading educational destination for international students, offering both cutting-edge education and value for money,” says Dr Joao Cravinho, Ambassador of the European Union in India. “We hope to bring these two components together and allow the Indian students to explore the educational, scholarship and career opportunities available in Europe.”
Dr. Cravinho’s words are reflected in the revamped Erasmus Plus programme which aims to forge fresh opportunities for co-operation between Indian and EU universities, including student exchange, joint degrees and wider funding prospects.
What is Erasmus +?
Started in 2014, the Erasmus Plus is a seven-year programme which replaces the Erasmus Mundus programme. The Erasmus Plus programme brings together four important EU initiatives that existed before 2014:
The Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius and Grundtvig).
The Youth in Action programme.
Five international cooperation programmes (Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink, the programme for cooperation with industrialised countries).
The new sport section
The European Union has, in fact, increased the budget for the Erasmus Plus programme to â¬14.7 billion - 40% higher than the previous level. The budget will be financed by 28 major programme countries of the European Union as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, FYROM and Turkey. “Indian students will benefit in a big way from the EU-funded Erasmus programme,” says Brian Toll, Senior Policy Adviser, International Cooperation in Education and Youth at the European Commission. “In the past, India has been the No.1 destination for Erasmus students and we are looking at attracting the same kind of interest for the Erasmus+ programme too.”
What’s in it for Indian students?
Indian students can benefit from the Erasmus Plus programme in two major ways- Credit Mobility and Degree mobility.
Credit Mobility is a short-term whereby Indian students can undertake study in a European partner country for 3 to 12 months. The study period has to be part of their study programme and count towards their degree. Credit mobility is available at the Bachelor, Master and Doctoral levels with all expenses including tuition, registration, examinations and access to laboratory and library facilities covered under the Erasmus Plus scholarship.
Degree mobility: Joint Master Degrees (JMD)
This is a long term mobility Erasmus Plus programme which offers Indian students to pursue full-time Joint Master Degree Courses in Europe. According to Mr. Toll, during the 2014-2020 period, 350 new Joint Master courses will be opened under Erasmus Plus and around 25,000 students and staff are expected to receive Erasmus Plus scholarship funding.
The doctoral programme structure and selection procedure is similar to Joint Master Degrees so applications can be made directly to one of the consortia of universities offering the degree for a full fellowship.
Mobility for staff of higher education institutions
Under staff mobility, Higher Education Institution staff can undertake short term assignments between 5 days and 2 months in another higher education institution in any of the partner countries.
This mobility can be explored in any academic discipline and is open to any Higher Education Institution’s teaching and non-teaching staff in the form of training events abroad.
Who can apply for the Erasmus Plus programme?
While the Erasmus Plus programme is open to major fields of study like Engineering, Technology, Science, Mathematics as well as Liberal Arts, most of the scholars opt for the STEM fields. Here are some of the categories of candidates eligible to apply for the Erasmus Plus programme.
Higher education- Bachelors, Master or doctoral students, higher education professors and staff.
Vocational education – Apprentices, students and professionals in vocational training education organisations.
School education- School teachers, staff and students.
Youth field- Young people from 13 to 30 years and members of organisations working in the youth field
Sport- Sport professionals as well as athletes and coaches.
An Interview with Mr. Brian Toll, Senior Policy Adviser, International Cooperation in Education and Youth, European Commission, Brussels
Q. What kind of benefits can Indian students as well as universities avail from the Erasmus+ Programme?
A. India, which is a partner country, the focus of Erasmus Plus funding is capacity building projects to improve the quality of education in higher education institutions as well as 'credit' and 'degree' mobility for individuals. Indian students are eligible for different types of scholarships to study in Europe. "Credit mobility" type scholarships are for short periods, while "degree mobility" type scholarships are for longer duration and will lead to the award of an academic degree.
Higher education institution staff is eligible for scholarships under "credit mobility". However, the purpose of the mobility would be, for example, exchanges between universities for teaching or training.
Globally, it is expected that Credit mobility will allow to fund up to 135,000 students with partner countries from 2014 to 2020.
Q. Despite covering substantial scholarships, the Erasmus+ programme has witnessed a slow pick up in India. Can you point some reasons behind it?
A. Erasmus Plus is rather new so it will take time before everyone is familiar with the new rules and the new, increased opportunities the programme offers. India had the highest numbers of successful applicants under the previous generation of EU higher education programmes so the door is open now to build on the strong foundations of the past.
Q. Some of the universities suggested the huge documentation to be the problem behind the lack of interest in the programme. Is there any plan to make the documentation process simple?
A. Unfortunately not. The European Union has to be sure that proposals are well founded before funding is given. So, the documentation has to be thorough and convincing so as to ensure, as far as possible, a good result. However, experience tells us that a good proposal is likely to lead to a sustainable improvement in higher education institutions or for individual beneficiaries and the effort of preparing the papers tends to be worthwhile.
Q. In which areas do you think there has been a lack in terms of quality of the Indian students applying for the programme?
A. The programme is highly competitive and India tends to get more than its 'fair share' because of the quality of the applications. In some areas, such as capacity building, there are new openings for India and other countries in Asia so it will take time to get used to the procedures. However, if anything, we would say only that last year the number of applications from India was rather less than expected and more applications now and over the coming years will be welcome.
Q. How many Indian and EU universities are presently involved with the programme? How do plan to engage more Indian universities in the programme?
A. The numbers are hard to give because some universities are towards the end of their projects while others are only just setting out on a five-year journey. Indian universities have been involved in 11 of the most integrated cooperation actions with European counterparts and dozens of partnerships already. 'Mobility' actions have worked well, though there is scope for more. The area for more engagement is 'capacity building,' because there is so much to share and so much to develop but Indian interest was sadly lacking last year.
Q. There are concerns over the credit transfer system between India and EU nations. Do you think Indian students are apprehensive about the programme because of the concerns over the acceptability of 1 year Master’s degree in India? How are you minimising the issue faced by Indian students from your end?
A. Some European Masters are one-year course, some are two year. But a European Masters is still a qualification which is highly regarded in the world, whether or not it is fully 'accepted' in Indian academic circles. The Erasmus Plus programme offers both lengths of programme and certified 'credits' which are recognized throughout the world. The scholarship process shows that there is massive competition so we know that the Erasmus+ programme is producing what it is designed to do: excellent post-graduates ready to take their place in a globalized world.
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