Erasmus becoming an unaffordable dream for Spain's students
Austerity has hit Spanish students particularly hard. The Government’s decision to cut scholarships for participants in the European study abroad program – known as Erasmus – is yet another example. But on social networks, angry students are rising up in rebellion.
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"Erasmus, rest in peace". Screenshot from a video uploaded to YouTube by Salvemos Erasmus.
Austerity has hit Spanish students particularly hard. The government’s decision to cut scholarships for participants in the European study abroad program – known as Erasmus – is yet another example. But on social networks, angry students are rising up in rebellion.
Currently, Erasmus scholarships given to Spanish students divide into three parts. One part is paid by the Ministry of Education (about 120 Euros per month). Another part is paid by autonomous regions (the amount depends on the region, but boils down to about 150 Euros per month). The final part is paid by the European Union (110 Euros per month). This breakdown applies to all students, regardless of their economic circumstances.
Video uploaded to YouTube by Salvemos Erasmus.
According to a new policy, only those students that were recipients of a general scholarship (handed out on a need-based criterion) during the prior academic year would be eligible to receive funding from the Ministry. According to the authorities, this change is meant to ensure better funding for the most needy students - but a number of observers dispute this claim.
The decree modifying funding for the Erasmus scholarship was initially scheduled to come into force this year. But it generated so much resentment that on November 5, José Wert, the Minister of Education, decided to push it back to the start of the next academic year. This decision nonetheless provoked a serious backlash on Twitter, with hashtags such as #ErasmusRIP and #SalvemosErasmus.
In Spain, over 30,000 students study abroad every year on the Erasmus program.
“They are teasing us, playing with our education, our future”, laments Pikls.
“The scholarship allocated by the Ministry of Education is dwindling down to nothing”
German Fernandez is an Erasmus student in Foggia, Italy. He is a 5th year medical student and leads the online movement protesting the scholarship cuts on social networks.
Much like the 9,000 students who joined our Facebook page and many others that follow us on Twitter, I’m outraged by these looming budget cuts. This measure will hurt many Spanish students who depend on the Ministry’s budget, which represents roughly 30% of the total aid package. I have friends who are currently studying in Finland, where the cost of living is very high. With about one third less in subsidies, only the wealthiest students will be able to study over there. And if things continue to evolve this way, soon the Erasmus program will no longer be available to everyone in Spain.
The problem is that the amount taken back by the government is much larger than the amount allocated to needy students. This new measure is a smokescreen. Its goal is awful, and it will benefit very few students.
“To give him [José Wert, Minister of Education] a ministry is the same as giving a knife to a monkey”, mocks El Senor Gordo.
We are calling for an abrogation of this decree—especially in light of the fact that, since the start of the Erasmus program, funding has dwindled down to nearly nothing [According to European Commission spokesperson Olivier Bailly, Spain reduced its support to Erasmus students from 30 to 15 million euros in 2012].
Erasmus provides students an opportunity to benefit from new experiences abroad: it opens you up to other cultures, other languages, and allows you to meet people from all kinds of countries… It’s an experience that marks you for life, and that is worth fighting for so that other students can continue to benefit from it too.
Together with several student activists, I have called for Spanish students living in Italy to protest in Rome, the capital, on November 16. We expect this protest movement to spread to other European capitals where Spaniards are studying.
Post written in collaboration with FRANCE 24 journalist Grégoire Remund (@gregoireremund).