The culture and education committee on Tuesday adopted the new YES EUROPE programme for youth, education and sport, merging all the EU programmes for education, training and sport and Erasmus for higher education. More than five million students, of all ages, should enjoy greater mobility and cooperation abroad thanks to €18 billion in EU funding for the years 2014 to 2020.
"I appeal to all those in authority who repeatedly stress the importance of education in their speeches, to do it justice by providing an adequate budget. We will live up to our responsibilities as co-legislators and give the programme the importance it deserves at the heart of European education policy", said Doris Pack (EPP, ED), chair of the culture and education committee.
MEPs amended the Commission proposal to facilitate guarantee loans taken out by master's students and simplifying the administration of grants. For the first time, programmes dedicated specifically to sports will qualify for European funding. They will cover grassroots sports as well as initiatives to tackle doping, violence, discrimination and intolerance.
EU to guarantee loans for masters students abroad
Students wishing to take a masters degree in a different EU country will be able to apply for a loan which will be guaranteed from a new facility under the YES Europe programme. To qualify, the student must study abroad for one to two years. The committee voted for loans of up to €12 000 for a one-year master's programme and up to €18 000 for a two-year master's course.
MEPs stipulate that this new facility will complement rather than replace the other student grants or funding mechanisms that exist at local, national or European level. Special terms, favourable to students, should apply to loans of this type, such as reduced interest rates, "grace periods" for paying off the loan (a minimum of 12 months after the end of the period of study) or abolishing for additional guarantees from parents.
Youth - third section of the programme
Actions that apply specifically to Youth should be funded from a separate budget line, say MEPs. They propose a structure based on three sections, with a specific chapter on Youth, in addition to the chapters for education and training and for sport. Specific targets for this area are set out in the text adopted by the committee.
MEPs want the EU to continue to use the existing brand names for the different actions in the three sections of the programme: Erasmus for mobility in higher education; Grundtvig for adult learning, Leonardo da Vinci for vocational education and training abroad, Erasmus Mundus for international students' and teachers' mobility, Comenius for school education and Youth in Action for activities in the new Youth chapter.
Budget allocation and administration in member states
MEPs wanted to see the programmes and their administration modernised in order to make better use of the total budget allocation proposed by the Commission for the seven years from January 2014. It amounts to over €18 billion, of which just over €1 billion will come from various external aid instruments because the programme will be open to cooperation with non-EU countries. They adopted minimum guaranteed thresholds for each section of the programme: 83.4 % for education and training; 8% for youth; and 1.8% for sport.
National agencies will administer the programme in the member states. MEPs voted to ensure that each member state will be able to decide whether to have one or more national agencies.
The text adopted by the culture and education committee will be discussed and voted in plenary next year.
In the chair: Doris Pack (EPP, DE)