07.06.2024 | Blog

The Erasmus+ Programme Is a Strong Investment in the Future of Europe

Strengthening European strategic competitiveness will be a key focus for the upcoming EU election period (2024-2029). We believe that raising the education level of the population, having access to a skilled workforce, providing opportunities for continuous learning, and promoting international mobility periods are all important objectives that support European strategic competitiveness. Universities of applied sciences play an important role in achieving these goals.

Education is the best investment in the future of Europe, and the Erasmus+ programme is regarded as one of the EU’s most prominent success stories. The National Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences SAMOK and the Rectors’ Conference of Finnish UAS Arene have both published their EU election objectives for 2024 well in advance of the upcoming EU elections, which will be held on the 9th of June 2024. Both organisations are calling for doubling the budget of the Erasmus+ programme for the next EU multiannual financial framework period from 2028 onwards. The significance of the programme for the internationalisation of UASs must not be underestimated.

The importance of Erasmus+ mobility periods for students

The need for international competence and skills will grow significantly in different industries by the year 2030. The groundwork for internationalisation should be laid as early as during tertiary education. Erasmus+ mobility periods are an important tool in the building of such competences, which is why universities of applied sciences should also invest in increasing the popularity of Erasmus+ mobility periods. Taking part in Erasmus+ student exchange often broadens the worldview of travelling students and benefits their career development in many ways. In the long term, all networks and competences acquired during Erasmus+ mobility periods also form part of the base for the competitiveness of various enterprises and industry sectors.

However, the Erasmus+ mobility rates for tertiary students in Finland have fallen short of the best years of the 2010s. The mobility rates of students at universities of applied sciences have also been lower than those of university students. At the moment, the number of students leaving universities of applied sciences to spend a period of time abroad is only about 11% of the number of newly enrolled students. At the same time, students in the applied sciences typically prefer short international programmes, especially in the fields of health and welfare.

The objective of the European Commission is to see more graduates from universities of applied sciences completing at least one period abroad as part of their degrees. The Commission aims to increase the number of tertiary students going on mobility periods by 25% by the year 2030. Indeed, universities of applied sciences still have ways to go to achieve this target.

The impact of the Erasmus+ programme on universities of applied sciences

The Erasmus+ programme is known for promoting student mobility, but the significance of the programme is by no means limited to this. The programme also funds mobility periods for UAS personnel. Such opportunities can be leveraged for the professional development needs of both faculty and experts in research, development, and innovation.

The Erasmus+ programme provides significant support for the European project-based cooperation (KA2) of higher education institutions in order to strengthen the quality and internationalisation of higher education. Erasmus+ alliances for innovation are a project activity that is well-suited to universities of applied sciences. The strategic partnerships it fosters (between higher education institutions, vocational education institutions, and enterprises) provide solutions for the future competence needs in the world of work.

The Erasmus+ programme has also supported the close and ambitious partnerships established between the “European university network” alliances. To date, the Commission has awarded Erasmus+ funding to 50 university alliances, and, after the evaluation decisions for the fifth round of applications is complete, this number will increase to 60. The alliances include 7 Finnish universities of applied sciences so far. We consider it important that the budget for the next Erasmus+ programme is ambitious enough to provide resources for the long-term and in-depth development of the alliances. At the same time, the funding base for other activities important to universities of applied sciences included in the Erasmus+ programme should not be impaired as a result of this emphasis.

Education is an important focus area for the future of all of Europe. Don’t forget to vote in the EU elections on the 9th of June 2024!

Authored by Mikael Vainio, European Policy Advisor at Arene and Roosa Veijola, European Policy and International Affairs Advisor at SAMOK