Students studying abroad in Europe through the Erasmus scheme stranded without funding for the semester
The Erasmus programme, which offers students from British Universities the opportunity to travel to EU partner universities to study, has been a popular choice for British students since its inception. Hundreds of students enter into the programme each year to experience a new culture whilst studying for their degree at a reduced cost. However, many home students are lacking this life-changing experience abroad this year, instead struggling to provide for themselves after being left without funding for the entire semester. It was revealed this month that the British Council has not provided a large number of students abroad on the Erasmus programme with their promised Erasmus grants due to high demands for funding.
Michael Barraclough, an English and German student from Queen Mary who is currently studying in Germany through the Erasmus programme, is one of many students who are still yet to receive their Erasmus grants. Michael comments: “I moved over here in August and survived on the first instalment of my student loan and my wage. But no one told us we’d be waiting months and still not have a penny.” Fortunately, Michael is currently in full-time employment which covers his rent and living costs, but many other students studying through the programme have not been so lucky. “Some people are studying full-time and so don’t have money coming in regularly. People have had to borrow from boyfriends, parents etc. A few of us emailed and tweeted the British Council and we all got similar answers and are still awaiting payment.” Many students are struggling to pay living costs and, if funds are not received before the winter break, will not be able to make it home for the holidays.
The British Council has come under deep scrutiny over the handling of the grants with British students studying abroad. Hundreds of students are continuing to contact the Council via Twitter, emails and letters about when they can expect their grants receiving only responses similar to that sent to Michael. “They told me to be patient and speak to my university and that it was always going to be a long wait”.
Daniel Hibler, the Erasmus programme manager for the British Council, says: “We regret any delays students are experiencing in receiving the funds. They should be aware that this is a complex programme in its first year, with different actors working together to ensure it is launched as envisaged. Demand has grown by 9% on last year – more than in recent years – but the budget has only grown by 1%. So there’s real pressure now on the mobility budget. The Erasmus grant is a maintenance grant – a contribution to the additional costs of mobility. Students should still be receiving their loan from the student loan company. But we are sorry, and that regret applies to any of the delays from whatever origin, including those beyond our control.”
The mix-up is not only a British problem, with students from universities across the EU continuing to face similar issues with no money coming in. The situation for French students has been particularly difficult, with some being told that the demand for funding has been greater than the amount available. A French student, currently studying at the University of Bologna in Italy, was told just after travelling overseas that there was not enough money available and that she would therefore receive no funding.
Despite the financial strains that students are facing, the programme has had some benefits, offering eye opening opportunities for students to experience activities in their host country. As Michael highlights, “I’m having a great time – I luckily got a job that I enjoy and am having a really good time here – it’s worth doing it, but we need more clarity before we move out here.”