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Published on July 3rd, 2014 | by Alexandra LACROIX | Credit: A2e2f

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“The Erasmus Generation should be even more mobilised.” Interview with Antoine Godbert

The Erasmus programme has been renewed for another seven years with a higher budget and was renamed Erasmus+. By doing so, the European Union recognises the relevance of this initiative to both foster a true European citizenship and to improve Europe’s youth employability.

UNITEE interviewed Antoine Godbert, Director of Agence Europe-Education-Formation France, the only national agency in charge of the promotion and management of Erasmus+ Education-Formation in France.

What is the new Erasmus + programme?

This is the new programme of the European Union for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020, with three pluses:

More budget: the budget now amounts to 14.7 billion euros, which represents an increase of over 40 per cent compared to the previous period (2007-2013).

More participants: the new budget will enable more people to participate in the programme, particularly concerning education and training staff.

More countries: the programme opens up to the rest of the world, since 10 to 15 per cent of the grants will now concern exchanges outside Europe.

Finally, Erasmus + also corresponds to a change in philosophy. The programme does not only aim to improve the skills of the participants but also to create added value locally and in the long term.

For example, with a budget of 150,000 euros per year, various actors (companies, local authorities, universities, schools…) will be able to develop strategic partnerships in order to create innovative training projects.

What were the initial objectives of the EU’s mobility programmes? Have they changed with the globalisation and the European crisis?

The two initial objectives, to strengthen European citizenship and increase the employability of young Europeans, are still relevant today. But with the European crisis, participants now consider the second objective as a priority.

Two of our recent studies have shown that job seekers are more likely to find a job and apprentices are more likely to be recruited at a higher position if they have participated in a mobility programme.

But we should not forget that Erasmus also aims to create links and a sense of belonging. It is about developing a new, common way of life. Many of them discover how people live in another country for the first time and it is a good lesson in life.

Is the Erasmus programme a success? How can we make it accessible to a majority of students in Europe?

Three actions are necessary to make it more accessible.

First, academic institutions must better communicate internally and in particular to those students who have not been very mobile so far.

Elected officials in the participating countries should also explain the positive side of mobility, including to families.

Finally, students who have already participated in the programme should promote it to other students.

Not to mention the business world, which should contribute by raising awareness of the importance of language skills and informal competences such as teamwork and adaptability.

Is there an “Erasmus Generation”?

The programme has existed for 27 years and has created two generations.

The first generation corresponds to early the pioneers who have tried out the programme and were few in number.

Today’s generation is much larger and is bound to increase with the new Erasmus programme which now concerns 80,000 beneficiaries.

Nevertheless, besides the various social media communities that have been created throughout Europe, the Erasmus generation should be even more institutionalised, especially in the economic sector, in order to maximise the potential and benefits of the exchanges.

We must build on the alumni network in order to facilitate the links between, on the one hand, alumni Erasmus students, current Erasmus students and applicants and on the other hand, alumni students and potential recruiters.

This is the work of the European Commission and the member states and I also very much welcome the initiative called garagErasmus, which seeks to create a professional network of former Erasmus students.

Those who were students and now have decision making positions must reunite and recognise that they are part of a common working world and can thus enrich each other.

Do their visions of Europe and their commitment to Europe change once they participate in the programme?

The European election results showed that many Europeans do not understand Europe and even fear Europe.However, students who participated in the Erasmus programme are not afraid of Europe. They have seen how people live elsewhere and, even if they still recognise that other countries have their own problems, they better understand these problems and fear the “europeanisation” process less.

Their stay abroad also gives them a taste for cultural exchanges and dispel many prejudices. They realise that their problems (of integration, professional success…) are shared by other young Europeans in other countries.

Erasmus students learn Europe’s motto very well: united in diversity.

The 2E2F Agence Europe-Education-Formation:

The agency has three main missions:
– The first role is to manage and monitor the allocation and use of the “Education-Formation” funds. The agency supports projects and control that they used properly.
– It should also promote these programmes, now grouped under Erasmus +.
– Finally, the agency contributes to articulate in the best way possible national education policies with Europe’s strategies and in particular with the Europe 2020 strategy.

In a few months, the agency will be called Erasmus + Education Formation.

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