Erasmus+ will support 250,000 Brits to study abroad
Four million more people will have the chance to study, train, work or volunteer in a new country and in a new culture under the European Union's new Erasmus+ funding programme for education, training, youth and sport.
Speaking at the London launch on 28 April Vassiliou, European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, said Erasmus+ was the start of "a new chapter in a fantastic success story".
The new programme has an expanded budget of almost EUR15 billion (US$21 billion) over the next seven years - 40% higher than before.
This year, the UK will receive nearly GBP100 million (US$169 million) from Erasmus+, and between now and 2020 it will provide mobility grants for nearly a quarter of a million UK students, apprentices and young volunteers, as well as teachers, trainers and youth staff.
That is a 50% increase on previous mobility programmes.
Vassiliou said Erasmus had been opening minds and changing lives for 25 years, and three million people across Europe had already benefited from it.
The intention of the new programme was to achieve a better balance between the number of incoming and outbound Erasmus students in each participating country.
For years, twice as many students had been going to the UK for Erasmus studies or traineeships than heading in the opposite direction, and this needed to change.
"It has never been easier for British students to take advantage of Erasmus. We are offering tailored online refresher courses to improve language skills before they start - and, for those who are less adventurous, more and more universities abroad are also offering courses in English," Vassiliou said.
Marking a first, Erasmus+ would also be open to third countries, allowing students from around the globe to spend part of their studies in a European Union country and vice versa. Also for the first time, a section of the programme would be dedicated to sport.
"On the one hand, we intend to tackle the transnational threats that plague the world of sport, like match-fixing, violence and doping, through joint projects that bring together key actors from across the continent. And on the other hand, we want to promote the social value of sport, where sport serves as a vehicle for change, for social inclusion, health or dual careers."
Erasmus+ would contribute to improving the quality of education and training at all levels, and fund new cross-border projects to tackle poor reading skills, for example.
Foreign language skills were falling behind, added Vassiliou, particularly in countries like Britain, and the new programme would support initiatives to boost them. It would also support better use and modernisation of ICT for students and teachers.
Those students battling to secure loans to study for a full masters degree abroad would receive guarantees for the loans from Erasmus+, which would also help to fund new alliances between training providers and businesses to update vocational teaching and boost the quality and quantity of apprenticeships across Europe.
Reforming vocational education and training systems was critical - youth unemployment was clearly lower in countries where these were strong, she said.
Over the past few years, the UK had taken steps to improve skills proficiency among young people, raising the age of compulsory schooling, introducing traineeships for low-skilled young people and enhancing the quality of apprenticeships.
This should be encouraged and maintained.
Erasmus+ offers a new partnership between all the actors in education, training and youth, and between education and the world of work. "And it offers four million people the chance to study, train, work or volunteer in another country," she said.