The European Students Union organized the Student Social Lab on May 20th in Brussels with the goal of gathering students’ opinions and recommendations regarding the Erasmus+ Program funding. The event was held in a hybrid format to allow students from various countries to participate and have a say on the most important question:
What would the ideal Erasmus grant system look like, taking into consideration inclusiveness and affordability requirements?
The ESU team, comprised of Tiziana Fantucchio and Stanimir Boyadzhiev, participated in the discussion with 8 participants from various nationalities – Polish, Armenian, Indian, Dutch, Belgian, Slovakian, Albanian, and Bulgarian – and with varying mobility experiences – outgoing and incoming Erasmus+ Programme students, and students who have not yet participated in a mobility but are interested in doing so.
Participants provided valuable feedback on the importance of the E+ programme as well as the improvements that need to be made to its grant. While the grant is a motivating factor for any student to participate in mobility because it covers the main and basic expenses, the amount of the grant was a deciding factor for many other students in deciding whether or not to carry mobility and in which country. The Erasmus Plus programme should take more into account the various costs of living in the different program countries, even if they are in the same group of countries. Housing is a common issue for international students. Many cities are not prepared to accommodate a large number of incoming students and lack student dormitories.
Furthermore, students expressed a desire for the grant to be based not only on the costs of living in the host country but also on the area where a student is from – for example, rural areas – and to adjust the travel grant amount accordingly. Also, while grateful for the enriching opportunity provided by the mobility program, a more inclusive grant would allow many students to enjoy their mobility experience without being concerned about financial issues.
Some participants did not participate in Erasmus exchanges because they were unaware of the opportunities. Universities should provide more information and engage students in mobility. In this regard, ESN Culture and Education Policy Assistant Anna Kowalczyk made a significant contribution by supporting the event and presenting the key findings of the research report on Student and Staff Perspectives on Diversity and Inclusion in Student Exchanges. Anna provided an overview of the mobility opportunities and encouraged and motivated the participants.
Thank you so much to everyone who participated for your helpful suggestions and feedback!