08.02.2011
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Commission launches debate on EU student loans

BRUSSELS – One of the hot topics for discussion in the higher education policy debate in 2011, is the possibility of an EU loan scheme which aims to improve the mobility of students. As higher education policy is still mainly a national competence and EU-wide targets are predominantly implemented on the national level, the European Commission now wants to test out the feasibility of redefining their approach, by offering students direct loans from the EU level.

A study, financed by the EU’s executive and delivered by the London School of Economics (LSE) Enterprise and the Public Policy and Management Institute (PPMI) is expected to offer concrete recommendations on establishing a loan scheme for mobile students within the EU.  With the ambitious target of 20 percent student mobility by 2020, it has become a real challenge to find suitable financing for mobile students.

Insufficient Erasmus grants

Several studies show that financing of studying abroad is the biggest deterrence factor for potential mobile students, while the existing support such as the Erasmus grants is clearly insufficient.  Almost all European countries have established loans and grants system for students at home but the Bologna-Process commitments to make such loans and grants portable is not yet a reality. In the current situation, large groups of students are depending on family support or personal income if they want to take a year or degree abroad, which is causing social inequalities in student mobility. Thus, one of the options that will be debated in the upcoming year is whether a EU loan scheme can be a good way of repairing this.

At the Board Meeting of the European Students’ Union (ESU), in October 2010, the main concern that was raised is the fear that a loan scheme will not improve access to already disadvantaged groups and would in general leave young people in greater debt, which is already relatively high.  ESU prefers to see that the Commission and member states opt for increasing direct financial support through mobility programmes and ensure more and better Erasmus-grants by additional top-up financing, matched by sufficient and fully portable grants and loans from home countries.

ESU is preparing to get involved in the debate about the financing of student mobility and the suggested loan scheme in particular. In principle, ESU is in favour of more student friendly financing of mobility and expects to deliver constructive recommendations on how a loan scheme has to be designed in order to be attractive.

The final report from LSE Enterprise and PPMI is scheduled to be published in March 2011. The Commission has expressed its intentions to conclude discussions on the issue before the launch of the new Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education that is expected as a Commission Communication in September 2011.

Published: 27 January

For more information, please contact Magnus Malnes, member of ESU’s Academic Affairs Committee on magnus@esu-online.org or Marianne Slegers, ESU’s Communications Manager on +32473669894 /  marianne@esu-online.org

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