There is no doubt that Erasmus+ offers an excellent range of opportunities for students and staff to broaden their international experience. Key Action 1, in particular, provides a fantastic variety of flexible activities, leading to useful and diverse outcomes. In particular, University College London (UCL) has welcomed the improved support for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and is pleased to see that their participation has risen steadily, albeit gently, over the past few years. The Online Linguistic Support tool is another great innovation, supporting language learning for student participants prior to and during mobility; often a key concern of British students considering studying abroad.
This is not to say that there is no room for improvement with regard to the practical implementation of Erasmus+. The programme, with its significant increases in administrative processes, has occasionally been a source of consternation amongst support staff at UCL. The late release of documentation at the start of the programme did not serve to engender positivity and, in a sense, the last two years have been a period of rebuilding confidence in Erasmus+, as well as discovering the new features of the programme.
To relieve some of these pressures, Erasmus+ must quickly move towards a streamlined and digitised approach. For students, who make up such a large part of the mobility programme, universities must be able to provide an experience that foregrounds cultural immersion, language acquisition and personal development, not bureaucratic inconvenience. Students undertaking mobility in the next three years are likely to have grown up in the digital age; their willingness to engage with paper-based forms or navigating a university’s bureaucracy in order to obtain physical signatures and stamps will be limited.
The creation of a single Erasmus+ portal, allowing administrators and students to interact with their own data, would significantly improve the participant experience. It would also provide a hugely rich source of data for the European Commission, which in turn would help to refine the programme. Failing that, some guidance for those beneficiaries wishing to incorporate mobility documents into their own paperless student information systems would be very welcome.
With the spectre of Brexit now dominating the conversation about the UK’s endeavours in Europe, UCL is grateful for the continued support of colleagues across the EU and at the European Commission. We are hopeful that a solution will be found that would allow the UK to continue to participate in this scheme and we have made our feelings on this clear to the UK government. In the meantime, we welcome the opportunities that Erasmus+ provides our participants and will continue to ensure that visiting staff and students benefit from the best of the UK’s educational, scientific, cultural, artistic and social values.
By Lucy Gaunt and Conor Rickford
Lucy Gaunt is Student Mobility Manager and Conor Rickford is Senior Partnership Manager (Europe) at University College London in the UK.
University College London participated in the 2016 EUA member consultation on Erasmus+. To see the survey findings, please click here.
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