Student Loans Concept
There are now only six months to go until the European Parliament elections in May 2014! In the run-up to the elections, we want to start looking at some of the key policy differences between the various political groups and parties in the European Parliament to help give you a better idea of what each of them stand for.

In our last post, we looked at one of the EU’s largest budget expenditures – the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Today, we’re going to take a look at education. EU ministers have just agreed funding for an expanded version of the Erasmus programme, so this seems a good focus. Along with the EU’s research and innovation budget, Erasmus is one of the few programmes to see a large increase in its funding in the next EU budget. Do YOU think that this is money well spent?

We had some questions sent in from members of the European Students’ Union (ESU) on this topic. We started with a question from Rok, the current chair of the ESU:

Rok wanted to know whether it was really a good idea for the EU to guarantee student loans, seeing as loan defaults were responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis. Under the new Erasmus+ programme, the European Central Bank will guaranteed student loans for postgraduates doing their entire Masters degree in a different EU member state. This guarantee is capped at up to €12,000 for one year (or €18,000 for two years).

To get a reaction, we spoke to Malika Benarab-Attou, a Green MEP, who said her party opposed the scheme but was unable to stop it because they don’t have a majority in the European Parliament:

malikaI am rapporteur on Erasmus+ for the European Greens, and both me and my party are against putting the burden of these loans on the shoulders of students even before their have begun their professional careers. I see two risks: first, as I said, students will be burdened with debt before their careers have even begun. The second problem is that these loan guarantees will destroy a valuable system that is already in place, that is the scholarship system, which is better for all students and especially for those with lower incomes. So, my party couldn’t stop these changes to the Erasmus programme because we don’t have a majority in the European Parliament. However, our resistance did make it possible for us to decrease the amount of money allocated by the EU for this loan guarantee programme.

If the  Greens gain seats in 2014 (and they are doing quite well in our Debating Europe Vote 2014), could they be even more active on this front?

Next, we had a question sent in by Fernando, Vice-Chair of the ESU, asking what else the EU can do to support education systems in Europe apart from promoting greater mobility through the Erasmus programme.

To get a response, we spoke to Doris Pack, a German Christian Democrat MEP with the  Centre-Right EPP group in the European Parliament. As the Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education in the European Parliament, what did she have to say?

pack-speaksThe problem, as Fernando should know, is that the European Union – i.e. the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission – can only work under the Damocles sword of subsidiarity. Which means everything that concerns, for example, a university in Salamanca or Madrid is up to the regional or national authorities. We cannot intervene in any of these things.

Instead, the national governments started with something called the ‘Bologna process’ twelve years ago. It did not involve the European Parliament, nor the European Commission, but was rather government ministers who agreed that the higher education area should be a little more harmonised.

On the other hand, the EU’s involvement is currently largely restricted to issues of mobility. Even Erasmus, which is a good thing, has operated on a very small budget. But, with the new Erasmus+ programme that was recently agreed, we will have the possibility at least to have loans for those doing a Masters in another country guaranteed by the EU budget, and repaid in a social way. So, I think this is a good thing, because we have to help students to have a possibility to study abroad even if they are not financially backed by their families.

For an alternative perspective, we also took Fernando’s question to Morten Løkkegaard, a Danish MEP with ALDE – the party of  Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament – to see how he would respond. What more could the EU be doing in education, besides working to improve mobility?

lokkegaard-speaksWhat can be done is integrate business and universities much more. We have taken the first steps with some common studies and initiatives – the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) for example, which is the European answer to the American MIT. This is the way to move forward.

Personally, I’m very satisfied that we are copying the Danish model, or what’s call the ‘Danish PhD’ model, where we give students the opportunity to work half-and-half in a company and university. That is to say: 50% of their time is spent as a student and 50% actually working in a company. And this model, which has been very successful in Denmark for the last 20 years, is currently in the implementation phase at the moment so we should see it working at the European level in the next few years.

This ‘Danish PhD’ model has actually been copied on my initiative in the whole EU area, and a lot of money – 20 million euros – has been following this scheme. So, I assume that in the years to come we will see this model spreading throughout the EU area. And we need more of that – this is the way to go, to integrate the business and university environment. They have traditionally been living in separate universes, but if we want to reach the level of growth that the EU’s ‘2020’ strategy talked about, then we need to have many more concrete suggestions and models for how these different environments can work together.

Finally, we had a question from Elisabeth, the Vice-Chair of the ESU, asking how the EU could involve more stakeholders from higher education in the decision-making process:

We put this question to Doris Pack, the Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education, to respond:

pack-speaksI think we are doing this already. I don’t know where Elisabeth thinks we are lacking, but I don’t think that we need more information or more input from stakeholders in the higher education sector. We meet with universities, professors, even students organisations are there, youth organisations are there. We are totally surrounded by people from the higher education sector who will give us information, and we do use this information… So, I think we already have a lot of input from people in the field, so I don’t think we need more.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

62 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Under the new Erasmus+ programme, the European Central Bank will guaranteed student loans for postgraduates doing their entire Masters degree in a different EU member state. Is this a good way to support lower income students, or will it just burden them with debt? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

  1. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    An educated youth is the greatest investment that a country, or a Union/Federation/Confederation of countries (whatever you want to call the EU) can make.. Educated young people are the driving force of any economic and social development. What if you have all the money in the world to kick-start innovation and economic growth initiatives, but your youth does not have the right education or degrees to fill the jobs you are going to create.. You will have to import young people from elsewhere, and we all know that that comes with a cost to social coherence and the rise of xenophobia and so on.. So why our governments and the EU prefer to give money to banks and the mafia gamblers in our corrupt banking and financial sector instead of investing a portion of this money to the young is something that I do not understand.. And not only that, but the current austerity policies, are hitting the old and the young the hardest, meaning that they clip the wings of our most dynamic, creative and hopeful force for recovery, our young students.. It is madness..!!!

    • avatar
      Paul X

      I suggest your world isn’t called planet earth….

    • avatar

      As well.

  2. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Loans, and how will they pay if they don’t get no jobs and you are increasing retirement age?

    • avatar

      The idea seems to be to make as many people as possible permanent debt slaves. That’s why they want you to buy some overvalued house and getting a needlessly big mortgage to stick with you for the rest of your life. Steer clear of the debt trap!

  3. avatar
    Paul X

    So Morten Løkkegaard is claiming the ‘Danish PhD’ model is being copied across Europe on his initiative?

    To me student who studies 50% of his time and works the other 50% is called an Apprentice and that’s what I did back in the 1970’s so Mr Løkkegaard seems to be claiming credit for reinventing the wheel

  4. avatar
    Cem Ozan

    certainly invest for education means better future for mankind…with love from North Cyprus..

  5. avatar
    Eleni ElDarling

    Erasmus is not enough for sure.Maybe erasmus should be rated better .Students that are effective and talented should have the opportunity to stay longer at the university they did their erasmus .

  6. avatar
    Mateusz Krupczynski

    In my opinion there should be available loans or grants for students who at master and Phd level.

  7. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    That would mean that the Northern EU nations [typically] would have to pay for significant numbers of Southern [usually] EU nations that abscond from their student debts accrued at Northern EU universities.


    Any EU involvement means a certain amount of monies transferred would be lost via theft, sorry, I ,mean maladministration.

  8. avatar

    It’s not bad but, I think that in the European budget, we’ve almost nothing about formation and education ! How can we explain that ? It’s incredible … we must strengthen it and glamorize the exchanges

  9. avatar
    Sasquia Navnepmak

    It doesn’t seem right. I would rather see Europe invest in excellence scholarships that pay for the education of bright but less priveledges students. Starting your professional life with a a loan of 18.000 euro is a big weight on your shoulders.

  10. avatar
    Győző Dósa

    Taxing the rich, huh? Let’s ban hard work and creativity with higher taxes, right? The well chosen degree guarantees you a higher standard of life. So if you want that, let’s work for it.

  11. avatar
    Stanislav Ivanov

    Certainly not! Higher education is a personal benefit, unlike secondary and primary, so that the EU should not guarantee any loans.

  12. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Nos paises dividados como é que um estudante e que tenha boas notas e que pertence há classe baixa ou media pode garantir um empréstimo não pode e o própio aluno perde o interesse de estudar Enquanto não houver uma estratégica de politicas novas e onde o estudante possa ser estudante trabalhador porque o estudante da classe baixa ou media irá ter dificuldades de competir com os estudantes das classes altas Bruxelas terá que se convencer que todos os estudantes sejam A B ou C tenham os mesmos direitos do que os estudantes das classes altas Eu defendo que os poderes centrais e os poderes locais dos estados da União deviam criar um plano onde os estudantes com mais deficuldades financeiras podessem fazer trabalhos extras dentro das instituições locais Porque o estudante nunca pode estar sempre assentado ao colo dos pais

    • avatar
      Olinda Martinho Rio

      Gostei de ver um texto em português. Apesar de ter alguns erros ortográficos e uma construção formal um pouco deficitária, acho que percebo e concordo com a ideia. Seria de louvar era uma proposta como a do sistema dinamarquês, da qual ouvi falar neste debate, de arranjar uma forma de os estudantes, bons alunos ou alunas mas com carências económicas, normais na sua idade se não contarem com a família, poderem trabalhar e estudar ao mesmo tempo. Até percebo que não exista a possibilidade de atribuir bolsas a todos e todas os estudantes de pós-graduações, o que seria o ideal ( de qualquer forma já as bolsas de Erasmus para o primeiro ciclo são apenas simbólicas, não será com essa bolsa que um aluno ou aluna portugueses conseguem fazer uma ano de estudos noutro país europeu), mas ainda por cima pretender endividá-los com o enorme horizonte de desemprego que os espera é quase atentatório. Não, não concordo nada.

  13. avatar
    Spyros Kouvoussis

    If hard work made you rich then women in India would be in the top 10 of world’s richest. From 1950-1975 the rich paid extremely high taxes of almost 80% and we all know how bad that was, right?

  14. avatar

    When in the USA the government started guaranteeing student loans, the first thing that happened is that universities greatly increased tuition fees, after all ‘the government guarantees everything’.

    This turned out to be good for the universitites, good for the Wall Street firms underwriting it, good for politicians talking points, good for administrators and teachers who saw increased salaries.

    However, it turns out it was very bad for many students, who ended up needlessly burdened with debts far too high. I know, they willingly signed on the dotted line so they bear some responsibility too.

    In this respect, no government should guarantee anything.

    And I’m sure the big banks are going to love this whole setup, as they do in the US also. As usual, politicians can be relied on to never think anything through.

    Stop burdening people with debt! Debt is bad, not good.

  15. avatar
    K Adamson

    . National governments should be un-elected if they cant provide free education. I don’t see what its got to do with the EU . Stick to the trade deals leave nations to govern themselves

  16. avatar
    Lea Meister

    What would be the problem with more interaction with stakeholders in higher education? Are there any specific dangers to be defined in this context? Isn’t there any room for improvement ?

    I can not identify any harm to be caused by an enhanced dialogue and by all actors been taken seriously – which unfortunately does not seem to be the case, because it’s still perceived as an extraordinary thing if “even student organizations are there”.

  17. avatar
    European Student Thin Tank - Belgium Embassy

    Dear students,
    European Student Think Tank is looking for YOU, those who actually have opinion on what is going on at the European level and those who are ot affraid to speak and share their views, ideas.
    The Think Tank aims for act­ive par­ti­cip­a­tion of the young cit­izens of the EU that can you our platform in order to brainstorm with the other European students and can participate in drafting decision-making proposals.
    For more pieces of information follow us:, on Facebook: @European Student Think Tank or if you are Belgian students join our group: @European Student Think Tank – Belgian Embassy.
    Use also my email address, I will be happy to respond your questions.



    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @European Student Think Tank – Belgium Embassy
      What a bizarre and singular organisation?

      “Those that crave power at a tender age should be denied power for they seek power beyond their experience and ken and nought but calamity shall ensue.”

  18. avatar

    We should not teach young people to live with a debt, we should not put the weight on them. Student loans benefit only the universities and the banks.

    What we should teach is how to make money, how to earn it, not how to borrow it. What’s wrong with you Europe????

  19. avatar
    Alexandre Hannema

    There are 2 sides of the coin of student loan guarantees and each of them has validity to a certain extent.
    On one hand, student loans makes students more responsible for what they use the money for, especially since every cent that has been used will have to be paid back. If students want to spend it for partying or other things, then that should be up to them, as long as they are aware that they have to pay it back at a certain point.
    On the other hand, student loans also add a weight on the shoulders of the students that isn’t necessary, and having to deal with repaying a loan creates a problem for students afterwards, and putting them in a very uncomfortable situation (as students in the US indeed).

  20. avatar
    catherine benning

    I wonder how many British people are aware that our government is funding university education for countries like Vietnam.

    We had free university education in the UK until relatively recently. And subsequently we were told government, via our taxes, could no longer afford free higher education so students would have to pay for it themselves. It started with costs being approximately one thousand pounds and then it went to four thousand pounds per annum. Quickly hiked to £9,000 per annum. Which has created huge amounts of personal debt which some students cannot service for forty years.

    30/08/2017 Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at the OECD, has responded to this comment.

    17/10/2017 Professor Rolf Tarrach, President of the European University Association, has responded to this comment.

    • avatar

      Paid education in britain is NOT a question of means but a question of «ideology». Many brittons are just appalled by «social mobility» and the ideia that their aristocratic offspring be crowded out the universities, both of them, by working class heroes. For those, a university education must be a question of family fortune, not individual achievement.

      And don’t blame the vietnamese for that.

  21. avatar
    Olinda Rio

    Gostei de ver um texto em portugus nos comentrios. Apesar de ter alguns erros ortogrficos e uma construo formal um pouco deficitria, acho que percebo e concordo com a ideia. Seria de louvar era uma proposta como a do sistema dinamarqus, da qual ouvi falar neste debate, de arranjar uma forma de os estudantes, bons alunos ou alunas mas com carncias econmicas, normais na sua idade se no contarem com a famlia, poderem trabalhar e estudar ao mesmo tempo. At percebo que no exista a possibilidade de atribuir bolsas a todos e todas os estudantes de ps-graduaes, o que seria o ideal ( de qualquer forma j as bolsas de Erasmus para o primeiro ciclo so apenas simblicas, no ser com essa bolsa que um aluno ou aluna portugueses conseguem fazer um ano de estudos noutro pas europeu), mas ainda por cima pretender endivid-los com o enorme horizonte de desemprego que os espera quase atentatrio. No, no concordo nada.

  22. avatar

    «Student loans» are a subversion of mamal ideology. All mammals care their young. We don’t abandon the eggs, like insects or salmon. We care for our young, giving them food, protection and education. That’s what all mamals do.

    The very idea that education should be something you pay for is against human nature: it is reducing the animal that WE are to a simple economic agent: and we are so much more than that.

    Anyone that stands for «student loans» spent too too long reading Giovani Gentile and not long enough whatching the meercats’ world or David Attenboroughs’ programmes. Student loans are a denial of our humanity and indeed our mammality.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      I think you may have something here, I always wondered why Whales don’t have student loans

  23. avatar

    First, you have to beleive that you as a 20-year-old boy or girl are responsible for your own education (and not your parents, nor your city, nor your state). Then you have to beleive that in case you are not good enough for the few scholarships, you still need to get a diploma. Then you have to beleive that getting a diploma in your home country is not the best choice for your career. Then you can pose the question: should I borrow from my parents, my bank or my government?
    If you think it through, there are a lot of other options than student loans by the EU for expat education. I am absolutely sure that there are other topics in education which would need much more focus from EP that this one. And Im not saying noone should go with Erasmus. But I think taking a 5-months hike is one thing, and getting a Masters abroad is another…

  24. avatar
    Laszlo Nagy

    Those loans might help with their studies, but will burden them later on, maybe the ECB should not let people be burdened with debt right at the beginning of their adult lives. If they have to have financial support, it should be some kind of a grant, that they don’t have to pay back.
    Also, spending years abroad might be not always be easy, what if a portion of those who take part change their minds after a year or so?

  25. avatar

    Well in germany it s free.I mean you have to pay like 250 € per semester but that s just for paper work and stuff.So 1500€ for a bachelor is something you can afford over here.You could actually earn that much in like 2 months

    • avatar

      Politics, Alex, is about each ones’ participation in the organization of the «pólis», of the people that live with You in the same «community»: it’s about how we organizaze ourselves as a whole. If you only look at «your situation», at «your country», at «your university», you are not doing «politics».

      I am 43 y.o. The conditions in which some youth from some other european country can access a first degree doesn not affect me; directly. Yet, I take the time to anwser You, because we must look beyond our own situation. That’s the point of «politics».

  26. avatar

    Again no way, ask people first if a federal eu is what they want, and hold binding referendums and i know its hard for a eurofile but respect the outcome.
    Lets not put the cart before the horse.

  27. avatar
    Panos Kontogiannis

    Substituting free education with goverment (or EU) loans is an excellent idea since it will increase the responsibility of the students, will improve goverment and university economics.

  28. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    You are politicians or bankers, are asking us if they can sell loans to students, and students will pay it with what?
    Once again thinking about bankers, why don’t you think in people, get the money directly to the people and will have the economy growing with the Unconditional basic income.

  29. avatar
    Pedro Celestino

    They should be FREE!

    30/08/2017 Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at the OECD, has responded to this comment.

    17/10/2017 Professor Rolf Tarrach, President of the European University Association, has responded to this comment.

  30. avatar
    Nuno Oliveira

    Instead of fattening the finantial sector as a middleman why not give student free education, you know, like it says on many countries’ Constitutions…

  31. avatar

    Loans are important but there is more things EU need to CARE ABOUT IT we are not EU-Member Citizen maybe but we are students..Because of this resident problems we have to pay 300 €/year as a student in Bulgaria(BTW MINIMUM WAGE IN BULGARIA 150 € )..EU not supporting people who wants to study in their country they just put barriers like this…Maybe they didnt get what is the meaning of Student…Well this is what i see..I already sent an email for that problem Ms.Cecilia Malmström she answered but it was totally pessimistic things in it.. Well i hope there will be better responsible who cares about NON EU MEMBER country students…We just want to study with our possibilities (materialistically) of course but why we need to pay too much money in every 6/12 month ???Is that the support of EU?Sorry but its not a support..As a student in abroad we already accepted most of the things but we are not products for sale or we are not the source of money for EU member countries we are giving for taxes , we are supporting economies (50.000.000 € per year) just for Bulgaria…But just think about it you were also student and you know what means out of money for days or weeks…

  32. avatar

    Postgraduates and students should not be burdened with loans from banks. They have to pay when they receive the good. This is after completing the training course with the percentage of their income. Call it education tax which students negotiated with the relevant university. And there should be no difference between private and public universities.

  33. avatar
    Fırat Güllü


  34. avatar

    It looks like everybody here knows, that education has to be free. Except our representatives. Again. Oh dear.

  35. avatar

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    am browsing this website dailly and get nice information from here
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