Original publication: July 2018
Author: Michaela Franke, Research Administrator
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2uUIEKD

This briefing gives a first overview of the main changes between the current Erasmus+ Regulation and the Commission’s proposal for the next programme generation for 2021 to 2027. The main themes addressed are the architecture of the programme, its budget, the participation of third countries and decision making procedures. The final section draws preliminary conclusions.

Please note that this document is designed to provide a first orientation on the new programme proposal. It does not constitute a final assessment of the proposal by the author or the Policy Department.

With the transition from the Lifelong Learning Programme for 2007-2013 to Erasmus+ for the 2014-2020 period, the EU’s programmes for education and training as well as youth were brought together under one umbrella and streamlined under three Key Actions, dealing with (1) mobility, (2) partnerships and (3) support for cooperation and policy reform. In addition, sport was for the first time supported under an EU programme, which became possible after the Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force.

The changes from 2007-2013 to 2014-2020 were at the time perceived to be quite radical as the structure of the programmes in question was altered to a large degree: away from a strong separate identity of the various sectors of education and training and a self-standing programme for youth towards a more streamlined format.

This approach has gained increasing acceptance over the first years of implementation of Erasmus+. Capitalising on this, the Commission’s proposal (COM(2018) 367) is now building on this success and proposes to name the whole programme simply “Erasmus”.   

Architecture

The objectives of the programme are now set out in Article 3 of the proposed regulation for all three areas covered in the text. Article 3 makes reference to the main strategies of these fields and the sectoral agendas for education and training.

The Key Actions familiar from Erasmus+ are now proposed across all areas of the programme: education & training, youth and sport. Yet, the three areas are dealt with in separate Chapters of the proposed recommendation and thus remain visible and easily distinguishable. It is clear to see which types of actions are actually supported for which field.

The Key Actions (KA) are titled:

  • Learning mobility
  • Cooperation among organisations and institutions
  • Support to policy development and cooperation.

Moreover, the inclusion of people with fewer opportunities seems to play a greater role than in the previous programme generation: this group is now defined in Article 2, paragraph 25, and also all the three areas allow support for small-scale partnerships that are specifically intended to widen access to the programme under KA 2. They will face simplified administrative requirements and shorter durations for projects, thus allowing small organisations easier access to funding. Article 18, paragraph 5, allows for adjustment to mobility grants to further improve access of people with fewer opportunities to KA 1.

Education & training: new and discontinued activities

In addition to the familiar actions under KA 1, mobility now also allows for the mobility of school pupils. Previously, this type of mobility was only possible to a limited degree and embedded in school partnerships. According to the Commission’s Staff Working Document accompanying the proposal and providing somewhat more detail on the various activities, pupil mobility will support short-term group exchanges and long-term individual mobility of pupils. Schools which participate in these activities will be encouraged to develop a “European dimension”.

In contrast to the predecessor, the Student Loan Guarantee Scheme is not supported anymore under KA 1. Therefore, the scheme will not be continued as problems with regard to its take-up were evident and part of the funding set aside for it was already fed into the general higher education budget of the current programme.

KA 2 appears in a somewhat streamlined format and allows for small-scale partnerships for cooperation and exchanges of practices. As stated in the Staff Working Document, these partnerships are intended to widen access to the programme and aim for lower administrative requirements to facilitate the participation of smaller organisations and those new to the programme. Also national activities may be eligible for funding, thereby allowing for greater outreach to disadvantaged groups.

In addition, ‘partnerships for excellence’ are supported and managed centrally by the Executive Agency. There are two new forms of partnerships mentioned: European Universities and Centres of vocational excellence. European universities are intended as networks of higher education institutions that would develop long-term plans for cooperation to improve their standing in education and research. Centres of vocational excellence may involve a multitude of local and regional actors in education and training, research and innovation and also businesses. Their focus would be to develop transnational joint vocational programmes and qualifications.

Partnerships for innovation will build on the Knowledge and Sector Skills Alliances under the previous programme generation. In addition, projects that aim specifically to push innovation in education, training, youth and sport will be eligible for support. They should be carried out by key stakeholders with excellent knowledge of the field.

KA 3 will continue to work in the same vein as under Erasmus+.

Jean Monnet actions are now part of the Education & Training chapter and will be rolled out to other fields of education & training beyond higher education. The intention is to promote teaching and learning about the EU and develop relevant content and teaching tools and to raise awareness of the issue.

Youth: new and discontinued activities

Under KA 1, the youth strand of Erasmus+ supported the European Voluntary Service. In the meantime, however, the Commission has proposed the European Solidarity Corps as a stand-alone programme with a separate and sizeable budget (EUR 1.26 billion for 2021-2027). Therefore, the EVS is discontinued under KA 1.

DiscoverEU activities have newly been introduced to KA 1 for youth, and EUR 700 million have been nominally set aside for them. The intention of the action is to allow young people to travel in Europe either individually or as a group, with a link to an informal educational activity that would foster a sense of belonging to the EU and discovering its cultural diversity. The travel vouchers would be given out by relevant organisations, and young people with fewer opportunities should be given priority.

KA 2 will – as for education & training and with the same rationale – facilitate small-scale partnerships. Also partnerships for innovation will be supported.

Sport: now also with Key Actions

KA 1 now supports the mobility of sport coaches and staff. KA 2 supports partnerships, again including those with a smaller scale to allow for widened access to the programme.

Budget

According to the Commission, the budget for Erasmus 2021-2027 has doubled to EUR 30 billion from the 2014-2020 programming period, when the budget was set at approximately EUR 14.7 billion. However, this claim needs to be put in perspective: the proposed programme also aims to introduce some new actions, so is not an exact copy of its predecessor but aims to do more in some areas; at the same time, the European Voluntary Service has been transformed into the European Solidarity Corps and been given its own legal base and budget. In addition, inflation effects and the impending Brexit (i.e. the presence of a financial contribution from and spending on/in the UK in the 2014-2020 period and their absence for 2021-2027) further increase the difficulty of a direct comparison between the two figures.

The distribution of the proposed programme’s budget across its three areas – education & training, youth and sport is set out in Article 14 of the proposal. The budget of the current programme is set out in Article 18 of Regulation 1288/2013. Table 1 compares the allocations across the main areas between the current and future programme.

Table 1: Comparison of allocations for 2014-2020 and 2021-2027 for the main sectors

The comparison of the percentages shows that the Commission’s proposal has kept the balance between the sectors as it was established in the current Erasmus+ Regulation, with the lion’s share of the funding – roughly 83% for both periods – dedicated to education & training.

The share for youth has slightly increased from 10 to 10.33%. While this increase seems slight, the actual increase is much bigger for this field: the original 2014-2020 allocation for youth still includes funding for the European Voluntary Service (EVS). In the meantime, however, the Commission has proposed the self-standing European Solidarity Corps (ESC) to replace the EVS. The ESC will in all likelihood have its own legal base for the 2018-2020 period (currently under negotiation between the EP and the Council) and a new proposal for 2021-2027 has just been made, with a budget of EUR 1.26 billion. Therefore, the increase for the youth field is considerable.

Sport has maintained its share of 1.8% of the overall budget.

The E&T sector of the programme covers four distinct areas: higher education, vocational education and training (VET), school education and adult education. In the previous programming period, minimum allocations were set out in order to make sure that each sector received at least that amount while at the same time allowing for some flexibility in the implementation of the programme. The same logic is also applied in Article 14 of the new proposal. Table 2 compares the minimum allocations across the four areas of E&T, both as a percentage of the E&T budget and of the overall budget for both periods.

Table 2: Minimum allocations for E&T

As regards the shares of the overall budget, the shares for VET and adult learning remain roughly constant across the two periods. There is an increase of slightly above 1% for school education, whereas the share for the Jean Monnet action decreases slightly from 1.9 to 1.5%. Higher education sees the most pronounced change, with its share going down from 36.8% to 28.8%.

In terms of minimum allocations, those are kept relatively similar to the 2014-2020 for VET, school education and adult learning. They go down for higher education – from 43% to 34.6%. At the same time, the share of the E&T budget not allocated to any of the sectors increases from 15% for 2014-2020 to 22.6% for 2021-2027, on the one hand giving the Commission greater flexibility in the implementation, but also decreasing the influence of the co-legislators on the distribution between the sectors on the other.

Moreover, Article 18 of the Erasmus+ Regulation had set out an allocation for the Key Actions for the education and training and the youth sectors: at least 63% were to be dedicated to learning mobility, at least 28% to cooperation for innovation and best practices and 4.2% to support for policy reform.

Article 14 of the Commission proposal does away with the allocation of certain percentages to the various Key Actions. This would give the Commission greater flexibility in the implementation of the programme; however, as the Commission simultaneously proposes to implement the programme through the implementing acts procedure, the co-legislators may not have a lot of say on how exactly the money will be spent within the fields of education and training, youth and sport. 

Participation of third countries

Article 16 of the proposal sets out which third countries may seek association to the Programme and participate in it on an equal footing with EU Member States, provided that they comply with all the obligations the Regulations sets out for the Member States.

These include the EFTA countries that are members of the EEA, acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates and countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy. For all these groups of countries, the conditions for their participation is covered under relevant agreements (see points a, b and c of Article 16, paragraph 1).

Point d of the Article 16, paragraph 1, delineates conditions for the participation of other third countries not part of any of the above mentioned groups. A case in point might be the United Kingdom after Brexit. Also for these countries, a specific agreement should outline the participation of said country in Union programmes. The agreement should meet certain conditions: a fair balance of contributions and benefits of said third country, clear conditions regarding the participation in the programme and the calculation of financial contributions and administrative costs; no decisional power of the country on the programme in question and for the EU to ensure sound financial management and protects its financial interests.

For those countries who are entitled to, but do not participate on an equal footing with Member States, and for other third countries the following actions are open to their participation: all Key Actions for E&T and Youth, Key Action 2 and 3 for Sport and the Jean Monnet actions in the various educational sectors.

Countries participating on an equal footing with Member States need to pay an entry ticket and maintain the same implementation structures, i.e. National Agencies, as Member States. For third countries that are not eligible to participate under Article 16, paragraph 1, funding for their participation may come from other financial instruments, namely the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument and the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance III. However, their exact contribution is not yet set out in the Commission proposal on Erasmus. 

Decision-making procedures

Under Article 19 proposes the annual work programme would be adopted via an implementing act under the examination procedure. The Commission would thus have to consult the programme committee as referred to in Article 31 of the proposal. This Article was taken over verbatim from the current regulation and sets out that the committee may meet in specific configurations to reflect the various sectors that are dealt with. External experts, including representatives of the social partners, may be invited as observers.

In Article 20, the text proposes to review or complement the indicators in the Annex for the reporting on the progress towards the Programme’s objectives using delegated acts.

Conclusions

Overall, the Commission proposal favours continuity over change by using the Key Actions already established under Erasmus+ also for the new programme generation and extending them to the field of sport. At the level of the actions to be funded under the KAs, there is also a great degree of continuity.

New actions include pupil mobility and DiscoverEU activities – both of which target young people, aiming to increase the outreach of the programme and foster a sense of European identity. Overall, access for people with fewer opportunities seems to play a larger role and is also facilitated by support for small-scale partnerships for each sector: these will have simpler administrative procedures and may be closer to local and regional realities, making participation for disadvantaged groups easier.

The Commission’s preference for continuity is also reflected by the decision-making procedures suggested in the proposal, namely the adoption of annual work programmes under implementing acts.


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