Education has been hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Travel restrictions and the closing of universities mean participants in cross-border mobility programmes, such as the Erasmus+ student exchange and the European Solidarity Corps, are facing challenges.
Currently 165,000 young people across Europe are on an Erasmus exchange and 5,000 more are involved in volunteering projects.
Erasmus students during Covid-19 (source: Erasmus Student Network)
- 25% of student exchanges were cancelled due to Covid-19
- 37.5% of students experienced at least one major problem related to their exchange (for example: couldn’t go home, accommodation problems)
- Half of the students whose programme continued have moved to online classes
- 34% have moved to partial online offers or partially postponed classes.
How the EU is helping
To help young people who are volunteering or taking part in Erasmus+, as much as possible, the European Commission has said it will make the programmes as flexible as legally possible.
It has recommended that the national agencies, responsible for the management of study exchanges, invoke “force majeure”, which would allow them to assess the possibility of approving additional costs up to a maximum grant amount and to postpone planned activities for 12 months.
Parliament’s culture and education committee has called on the Commission to do everything possible to provide support, clear information and reassurance for participants.
In a letter to Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner responsible for youth and education on 15 April, MEPs ask the Commission to ensure that:
- Maximum flexibility is applied, in particular to help those who have had to return to their home countries for safety reasons
- All exceptional costs in connection with Covid-19 are reimbursed
- Exchange students and participants of the Solidarity Corps programme retain their status
- Exchange students do not lose the academic year and can obtain the ECTS credits through remote study arrangements.
MEPs also asked the Commission to keep the culture and education committee updated about the number of participants currently on an exchange, their situation and the measures taken to support them. On 4 May, the committee again debated the issue with commissioners Thierry Breton and Mariya Gabriel.