The Erasmus student exchange programme is a success story for the EU. Figures released this month show a new record of almost 270,000 students benefitting from European Union support to study or train abroad in 2012-2013. Since its launch in 1987, more than three million students have traveled to study with backing from Erasmus grants.

Supporters say the programme not only gives students a chance to improve their education, but provides young people with the chance to broaden their outlook, discovering new countries and meeting new friends from around Europe and beyond. In December, EU governments agreed to boost the programme’s budget to €14.7 billion over the seven years up to 2020.

Yet there are changes. The usual grants currently running at an average of €272 per month will remain, but the new Erasmus+ programme will also include loans – guaranteed by the European Central Bank – for master’s students undertaking full-length courses in another country. They can run up to €12,000 for one-year degrees, €18,000 for two-year courses.

The decision was controversial. Critics say the loans will saddle students with debt before they even get on to the job market. Others however are supportive: contributor Panos wrote in to put the case for loans:

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

On the other hand, Laszlo argues the EU should stick to a grant-based system to avoid burdening students with debt at the start of their adult lives. We put his comment to Doris Pack, a German Christian Democrat MEP before the European Parliament elections in May. This is her reply:

pack-speaksWe have three parts of Erasmus. First, the Erasmus grant for going abroad for one semester or one year during the bachelor’s or master’s or PhD, with a small grant of around €200-€400. Then we said that for a lot of people it is still too expensive, so we give them a chance to do a whole master’s study in another country by offering them a loan they can take against a very low interest rate. They repay the loan in a “social” way: not one year after the studies, but they have much longer.  This is an offer, not an obligation. Then we have a third offer: the former Erasmus Mundus, which means you can go to a third country, [such as in] Africa or South America, and there you receive a higher fee of around €1,500  – but this is a small part [of the programme]. The biggest part is the first, the master’s loans are only an offer that I am very much in favour of.

Katarína Nevedalová, Slovak MEP and Vice-President of the Party of European Socialists in the outgoing parliament, also responded to Laszlo’s comment:

Give us YOUR opinion. Is it a mistake to pile on debt for people still in study? Or will loans encourage financial responsibility in students? Does the state (and the EU) have an obligation to offer free higher education? Or should students eventually have to pay back what the taxpayer provides? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – m00by

33 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Paul X

    I’m afraid I’m old school, I have a decent level of education paid for by myself and a lot of hard work spent in dingy lecture rooms in my own country. My children also have a decent level of education, again paid for by me
    I don’t agree that I should also have to fund other peoples children education through my Taxes, especially on a scheme which seems to focus more on “broadening their outlook, discovering new countries and meeting new friends from around Europe and beyond” rather than getting on with the hard work of studying……….no wonder there is youth unemployment problem if a decent education takes second place to a taxpayer funded holiday

  2. avatar
    Stanley Clark

    Encourage financial responsibility? In what way? It’s paid back automatically from your bank account anyway when the time comes.

  3. avatar
    Spyros Kouvoussis

    so people who are failing to pay their loans back in the US are financially irresponsible? the system is falwless and only people make mistakes? Erasmus should offer scholarships and encourage people from marginased backgrounds, not pilling them with debt.

  4. avatar
    Nikolas Spanoudakis

    In Europe where unemployement and debt crisis are still out of control we are talking about giving the chance to students to create even more debts. Do it make sense?

  5. avatar
    catherine benning

    What Paul X writes in his post above is bull. This country, the UK, he claims he and his father had to pay for education in, had always been free (paid for by taxation) at all levels until the Blair creature and his so called ‘New Labour’ party introduced it in order to follow the yanks with their illiterate shite of stealing their people blind to play war games with their money. He, Blair, decided to follow suit. (Well he was well paid for it to this day, so he could become the fat cat he so admired)

    In fact our ‘free’ education system dates back to at least Henry VIII and the commencement of, Christ Church, Oxford, which gave the students stipends as long as they worked well and passed expected exams easily.. Education here in the UK was included in tax payers criteria and should have remained so. This crazy foreign enforced blip to our country must be repealed. What nonsense Paul X speaks when he says he paid for his education and his children are currently paid for by him education wise. Because, if he does pay for it, then he is a very wealthy guy indeed. It now costs, in this country, the UK, a minimum of £30,000 per child per annum to send them to what we call public school, that being a code name for private education. The means, if he has two kids, for his out of pocket expenses for their teaching would be £60,000 pa, plus school kit, tuck box, cash and fares, etc.. Not to mention school trips, donations and everything that entails. So, fate needs to give him a lesson so that he too can feel how it is to have your kids line up at some state farce they call a school, with no way out as cash is short.

    He would have to have this money on top of his mortgage costs, living expenses, clothes, holidays and so forth. Therefore, he would have to be on a minimum of £150,000 per annum, as tax, we can assume, comes out of that before he has to shell out in advance to the schools of his choice.

    Our tax payers are being robbed of education for their children because we are funding huge swathes of overpaid government officials, tax write offs for the ridiculously wealthy, warfare to keep the yanks in business and corporations who fiddle their money off shore. That is where there is waste of our revenue, not those who are poor and can’t pay for education.

    It’s time these ugly few with too much money for their own good, began to get the same treatment they give the rest of us. Pitchforks should be out and at the ready. Europe should stand still and the people strike, en masse, until they are once again valued for their largesse to those at the top.

    The answer is education for all, paid from our taxes, as it always has been until these greedy shafters got too big for their boots and wanted to return us all to illiterate serfs.

    And to, Paul, I spent time at Peckwater Quad before these enormous fees set in putting the student in debt for a lifetime, brought in to kill off expectation to all but foreign imports and those with the lifestyle and wealth of Sebastian Flyte. How the British tax payer puts up with this robbery without so much as a squeal is beyond me.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Catherine, higher education has never been free. Even if you were lucky enough to have someone sponsor you for the college or university fee there is still all the additional expenses you yourself mention, travel, accommodation, books etc..when did you last buy a text book?…the expense of the text books alone is enough to feed a family for a year

      And as usual you detract from the topic with unrelated gripes…yes I agree much of my tax also gets wasted on government officials and bankers, but that is not the subject of this thread…..

      My point is why waste my taxes unnecessarily sending students to other countries to study when they would probably concentrate and learn more staying in their own country

      The problem is these days the last priority of the education system seems to be actually teaching people…. the statement I’ve already quoted once needs to be quoted again because I couldn’t actually believe I read it correctly …money that should be spent on proper teaching is in fact spent on “broadening their outlook, discovering new countries and meeting new friends from around Europe and beyond”
      IMO people should concentrate on getting educated, get a job, then think about doing all those things, not try and do it all at the same time at the taxpayers expense

    • avatar

      @ Catherine- “Good” education is a human right not privilege! It is a duty of every government to provide for free for at least~9 years or free & very cheap thereafter!

      My contribution once more sits in the EU sin bin- awaiting moderation- maybe for ever?

    • avatar

      @Catherine……I did very well, but I’m afraid, you misunderstood my response to your blog- calm to prevail!. Seems, I’m skating on thin ice with our overseers & have to watch & save my words.

      It wasn’t meant as opposition to you, but a hint that the moderators are delaying/stopping my opinion once more- reflecting & supporting just that. My complete blog might never see the daylight! The one sentence however did!

      It was a short “hint” I left- that I view education as a serious competency of every local government- not the EU, nor for it to become a general private business! My blog might surface later maybe & will than become understood! Sorry for any increase in your pulse rate!

  6. avatar
    João Sampaio

    No. We don’t need the american education system where a student finishes his/her degree and instead of working to build a life, works to pay the loans that he/she had to do to obtain a higher education.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Proactive:

      Did you not understand a word of what I wrote regarding the right of the people to expect a solid full education for their contribution as tax payers? Because, what you imply, is that I am not for this policy. Which is why I wrote what I did to Paul. He was misleading about having to pay for his education and his children’s because it should not return to being free as it always was in the UK.

      Education, all the way to university level was, until Blair got into office, free to all. The only costs was in university for course books. But, those with little cash, like myself at that time, either got them from those who no longer wanted them as a gift, or, bought them second hand. Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford at the time had a scheme to assist. Not only that, also at that time, the same bookshop allowed students to go into the store and read at tables provided if they didn’t have the means.

      I repeat, I and most of my family had free state education all the way to the top. Blair and his phoney pretense at being a socialist took that right away from the people who paid for it, the tax payer. He was a political plague on our society as was Thatcher. Free education must be reinstated in our country and the immigration levels, also exacerbated by Blair to return the nation to slavery, should be reduced to tens in order to return the rights of the citizens who paid for our state to be the bastion of learning it once was.

      To give it to you straight so there is no misunderstanding, I am very far left of centre not right in my political beliefs. Got it. However, because I’m on the left does not make me a lover of mass ludicrous immigration policies from outside of Europe.

      All European people should have the same rights and benefits across the entire EU region. Which includes free education. Anything other than that is absurd if they want to actively keep the right of free movement across all states. And those benefit levels, including disability, pension, income support, housing benefit, child support, etc., and civil rights to the population of the EU should be based on the UK level across the board. With an introduction of a decent living wage in each state. If businesses cannot afford to pay a living wage, then they should go into liquidation, for they are not equipped to legally employ.

  7. avatar
    Dhr John Markham

    I wonder what the cost is for persuing higher education for residents of the west-Bank and Gaza…… “NO” to increased fees!

  8. avatar
    Fran SP

    Trying to get out of the system the poor and blue collar sons and daughters. Shame on this University.

  9. avatar
    Pedro Redondeiro

    Yes, but with a cap for the interest rate that can be charged to the students, in the way that it is kept within an affordable, confortable and non burden way. This way, not only can the students make a loan with affordable rates but they can also work to build a life after graduate, being abble to keep up with the payments. Although it is also important that the Higher Education Institutions in EU, maintain their fess low and within the limits of the “real” family incomes. The “need for a loan” should not be the rule, but instead the exception. ;) If theses requirements are met, it is possible to have a fair, realistic and helpfull loan scheme. However this loan scheme, should not be only available for the erasmus + programme, but also European wide, wichch that it should be available also for those students who intend to study in a member state other than its own! ;)

  10. avatar

    Yes, but with a cap for the interest rate that can be charged to the students, in the way that it is kept within an affordable, confortable and non burden way. This way, not only can the students make a loan with affordable rates but they can also work to build a life after graduate, being abble to keep up with the payments. Although it is also important that the Higher Education Institutions in EU, maintain their fess low and within the limits of the “real” family incomes. The “need for a loan” should not be the rule, but instead the exception. If theses requirements are met, it is possible to have a fair, realistic and helpfull loan scheme. However this loan scheme, should not be only available for the erasmus + programme, but also European wide, wichch that it should be available also for those students who intend to study in a member state other than its own!

  11. avatar
    Riccardo D'Adamo

    The programme would help mainly those who cannot get a loan from banks, as it is the case for countries like Italy, where bank do not offer loans for students to study abroad. Unfortunately this programme won’t allow those who cannot afford to study abroad to do so, but at least will help students in countries where getting a loan for study purposes is not possible and help them to be less dependent on their families’ financial support.

  12. avatar
    Darcy Brás da Silva

    So in United States if America they are slowly trying to implement European Socialists values such as trying to have good ‘free’ public schools and some sort of public health system for us to go copy what they are trying to get rid of ?
    Banks are too often irresponsible to now put our education on it’s hands. Sorry but education _loans_ ARE NOT the way to go. Erasmus, either provide them help in getting a job in the country they traveled to and give just some initial assistance, give the money or change the program to accommodate them better. No more debt please.

  13. avatar

    The only “remaining jurisdiction” of member states- is in culture, tourism, EDUCATION, vocational training, youth and sport. The EC must leave its confused fingers from it- they caused enough damage already!

    Education is a human right- not a privilege! Costs thereof are a reflection of how foresighted, caring countries government & policies are and a barometer of how far down the road politicians sold out to the idea of the aggressive neo- liberal lobby!

    It is expected that politicians seriously care for all their citizen’s future! Than they have to take full care of the education system and cost! The EU must never control education! The EC will turn it into a sale able commodity– than the financial gamblers will even create derivatives and trade education on the stock exchange.

    An example how Austria takes care about education & its cost:

    EU hands off -destroying what still works in some countries!

  14. avatar

    1. No we shouldn’t encourage “loans” for students, lest we want to end up like that cesspool – America.
    We want our students FREE of debt to choose their own jobs and careers based on what they LIKE doing, not what “PAYS”.
    2.Paul X…seriously you’re a…ugh…i’m not going to say it. I’ll keep my calm but you are definitely asking for it.
    This “libertarian” ( the american kind again ) strain claiming ” i don’t want my taxes to go to ( insert public service here ) is the pinnacle of assholism and lunacy.
    You didn’t “pay for yourself”, a single family has to be quite rich to pay “for itself” an education, the STATE ( that is the rest of us, asshole ) paid for your education.
    And your taxes, you little bastards are how you RETURN to society what society helped you with.

    The NERVE of these people to claim that they get a free ride but then pull up the ladder so the rest can’t climb is MIND BENDING !

    • avatar

      @Crayven & Catherine … let me add some possible scenarios- in defense of Paul X- maybe not addressed or possibly hidden in his blog. His country of origin & his government policy is unknown to me. Surely, he seems experienced enough and can argue his case himself- coming across as quite an independent & self made person!

      * Basic education for the first ~8-9 years is, I assume, still free in the whole of Europe. (Taxpayer funded) Those schools are readily available in every village, town and cities. Stay at home learners are the cheapest solution & a parental obligation!

      * Further up the ladder, middle- vocational- technical schooling is less so. This requires that some learners need to leave their home or travel and parents pay for travel or accommodation & food- even if tuition fees are free. (Therefore partly funded by parents)

      * The last step- a young adult seeking University education is further limited by location to the “main cities”- a small country having less of them than a bigger one! Even if the tuition fees are free or cost a minimum, the accommodation & to survive is expensive! These costs are hardly born by government, and many students work part time to cover that- or their parents pay for it! Every country & university developed their own rules & criteria!

      * In certain instances, even some companies, parastatals & governments offer bursaries- some as grant, some to work off over some years & some to pay back- all under certain conditions. Cost of living usually excluded.

      * Private education becomes a necessity mostly in 3rd world countries where there is hardly any educational infrastructure or qualified teachers and a ‘care less’ attitude. Those who are rich (politicians & businessmen) all send their children to the EU or US to private institution- “robbing” the poor in those countries.

      Before jumping to conclusions and condemning anybody- based in his restricted blog- some tolerance and other hidden possibilities- not expressed fully- should always be kept in mind! It exposes every blogger of his/her temper, tolerance and understanding.

      In essence and in the end- it is the DE who leads & determines the subject under discussion & fishes for opinions- for whatever reasons & their agenda may be!

      So, let’s hear more details from Paul X & give him a chance. Innocent until proven guilty- even if his opinion differs! The policy decision is not his or ours- but the EC!

    • avatar
      Paul X paid nothing towards my higher education. I have a Degree, my employer at the time paid a percentage towards the fees and I paid the rest out of the wages I earned. I have been a full time taxpayer since I was 16 1/2 and I’m perfectly entitled to critisize when I think my taxes are being wasted

      ..and anyone who thinks people should only have careers in what they “like” doing should visit planet earth once in a while…so who is going to do all the jobs no-one likes?.. you know, the proper jobs that take hard work and that keep countries running?

      You seem to have a fixation with the word “asshole”…. maybe you should stop talking out of yours…..

    • avatar


  15. avatar
    Darcy Brás da Silva

    @Proactive However one of the biggest problems is once you make it debt based there is an incentive to rise prices and just say you can still get a loan, making students debt bigger and bigger overtime and worst because is now the base model. Pretty much like most liberalization of markets (like gas for instance) mentioning that the prices would lower and then BOOM in peoples faces.

    • avatar

      @Darcy…..thanks, I described three possible “student studying scenarios” all with “free education”! However, accommodation, travel & food is private & does not count as education and cannot be to any government’s/taxpayers account!

      The only “remaining jurisdiction” of EU member states is in culture, tourism, EDUCATION, vocational training, youth and sport. My point is: it should remain so!

      The EU is unwelcome to take over Members last competency- its sacred education! It however may give good advice- should they have any- except stats.

      AGAIN- it is expected that the local state seriously care for all citizen’s educational need for free! Not neo-liberal American style, but the old traditional European style!

      See EU educational stats (% of GDP): but also compare each country in detail, what it covers, since it varies.

      Going global-

      High figures in 3rd world countries mean little- are influenced greatly by small GPD, inefficiencies, wastage & corruption.

    • avatar

      @Darcy, thank you. My support for free education as practiced in most EU countries was clear- not to finance student life styles was too. Not even a most reckless bank like Stanley Morgan or RBS would give money without collateral. A “lifestyle debt” cannot be repackaged and sold as an “investment” to other gullible dumb investors!

    • avatar

      @Catherine & similar

      Now, after Paul X revealed the manner in which he managed & overcame the challenge to get a decent education against some odds and improved his own life & that of his family- would surely qualify as being exemplary, deserving some respect- or maybe an apology!?

      ……………..and please explain why and how feasible it would be for all those benefit levels which you list be based specifically on UK standards for the whole present EU- which the apparatchiks are planning to expand like the universe.

      Are you sure UK benchmarks levels might be superior to any others in Europe, to deserve the crown of “ISO 9000 EU social family standards”?

      Output capacity has in the end match input (taxation)- otherwise any country acting differently ends up like example Greece. If banks than continue to lend and politicians recklessly spend indiscriminately- a country may default, the debt is transferred to the next generation or the day of reckoning delayed- is that responsible? Surly, everyone has to have balance, live within own means- be it personally or as a state and make sure you vote for the least evil party!

      Education therefore to remain every members own resort- and that’s the whole point! The UK messed theirs up already!

  16. avatar
    Dim Zev

    I expect answers from the case Ares (2014) 1502108.
    On 12 May 2014, registered the above case involving questions-clarification for start and functioning IACS system acting cross-checks for payments rural EU support.
    Because the competent European Commission not replied , i resorted on 11 July 2014 to the Ombudsman 01253/2014/ANA to mediate to answer my questions.
    So far I have not gotten any response.
    Is this ordinary for Europe ?

  17. avatar


  18. avatar

    Yes. My family is super poor, but I’m quite capable so I really want to do an MA abroad. I can’t take out a ‘regular’ loan because I don’t have anyone to guarantee for me. So to all the haters: try having a poor family! This is an excellent opportunity for us to do a full programme abroad.

  19. avatar

    Student loan is just another crazy, rude, unjust and self destructive madness of capitalism.

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