In 2014, the Erasmus+ Programme arrived with a new streamlined architecture. Previously separate programmes in the fields of education, training, youth and sport were integrated under one single umbrella covering three pillars, or Key Actions (KAs). The aim was to maximise European added value by minimising fragmentation through different instruments, programmes and rules. The impact and efficiency of this change is subject to review in the current mid-term evaluation of Erasmus+: Has it reached its goals regarding streamlining and simplification?
In EUA’s membership consultation, feedback on some aspects of the programme structure was quite positive. Respondents underlined that the overall approach of an integrated programme is indeed welcome. In particular, the replacing of separate regional programmes with KA2 Capacity Building was praised. Respondents also appreciated the opportunity to participate in truly global collaboration projects with streamlined regulations, but also expressed the hope that more grants would be made available in the future.
However, regarding overall perceptions of the programme in comparison to its predecessors, opinions are divided almost equally among institutions with some saying that it made things easier, some reporting that it made no change, and others stating that it actually made work more difficult. On the question of whether Erasmus+ has achieved its goal of facilitating more collaboration across education sectors, respondents confirmed that it has become easier to work with non-university partners. This is likely due to the fact that specific actions allow for it, rather than to the integration of all education sectors under one umbrella.
Many institutions pointed out that even after two years of implementation, there is still some confusion and misunderstanding about the structure of the different KAs and their respective sub-actions and regulations. Some respondents lament that the KA2 actions are not fully streamlined in terms of unit cost limits. Some of these issues are linked to the fact that, like the former Lifelong Learning Programme, Erasmus+ is implemented through centralised and decentralised programme actions – with the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in charge of KA3 Policy Reform and parts of KA1 Mobility and KA2 Collaboration and the National Agencies (NAs) in charge of KA1 and parts of KA2. Hence, suggestions such as merging KA2’s Strategic Partnerships and the Knowledge Alliances into a single action can be quite complicated as the former is administered at the national level, and the latter at the European level.
Several respondents pointed out that these issues are not just about administration and division of work, but they also have a political dimension: With the decentralisation, the KA2 Strategic Partnerships action tends to forgo its European dimension and visibility, as the selection of projects leads to the prioritisation of national themes and project outputs remain in the national context. Several comments noted that the various NAs may apply criteria and regulations differently. This is an important issue, also as there is no clear indication that project beneficiaries are better served at the national than at the European level. As in previous consultations, respondents confirm that the EACEA has become a committed and proficient agency.
The most urgent issue to tackle, however, might be that the next programme should continue the streamlining and integration that started under Erasmus+ in order to decrease the administrative burden for applicants and staff management at institutions. In the coming months, EUA together with its members will develop further concrete suggestions on how to approach this.