Before the European Parliament elections in May the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg tried to defend Europe against UKIP’s Nigel Farage’s and his wave of Eurosceptiscm. Whilst Clegg’s reputation may be in tatters from his back-peddling over raising tuition fees, he did manage to make one very good comment about the EU. Clegg basically argued that Britain cannot expect to get all the positive benefits from Europe without actually being in Europe. Whilst he might have been mostly pointing towards grander issues such as how Britain gains from a single market, I feel he is also talking about more subtle EU policies that go almost unnoticed and one of these is Erasmus.
Erasmus is a scheme that provides financial assistance for students to study abroad somewhere in Europe for a period of 3-12 months. Erasmus is one of these overlooked policies that will cease to exist if Britain leaves the EU in 2017. If you talk to anyone who studied abroad you will usually get glimmering reviews of their experience. Think about it literally, you live in another country and learn about a way of life that may be slightly or drastically different from your own. This experience allows you to think about world beyond the borders of your own country, something many UKIP voters could definitely benefit from! For me personally, living abroad did something magical to me. Not only did I fall absolutely in love with the country I was studying in, I also managed to make a lot of academic development which ultimately impacted my final year mark. From 2012 to 2013 14,500 British students took the chance to study elsewhere in Europe thanks to Erasmus. A pro-European campaign called British Influence recently published an article about the positive benefits of Erasmus, I quote ‘By contributing to Erasmus though its share of the EU budget Britain gets in return more money for its universities, grants for foreign travel for its students, as well as the priceless diplomatic and cultural gains to be had through such exchanges.’ Erasmus is all about diversifying our knowledge base and making sure we understand our neighbours, so that we can do business with them in the future. For me it goes even further than that, having partaken in this scheme shows you have a European identity. Whilst in Europe we all speak different languages and have quirky peculiarities we are together a modern enlightened continent that gains tremendously from sharing ideas. I understand this debate so far has been mostly sided towards higher education and how university students gain from Erasmus. But Erasmus has evolved into Erasmus +, and now seeks to include not just university students in this cultural exchange but also teachers, volunteers and apprentices.
Erasmus + has put forward a budget of 14.7 billion EUR over the space of 7 years to give 4 million people under the age of 35 money to work, volunteer and learn abroad. The reason for this increase in the Erasmus budget is a realisation that European economies need workers with internationally recognisable skills and also language abilities. One of the most interesting parts of Erasmus + for me is apprenticeships. In Britain, all political parties are seeking to increase technical traineeships, something we are seriously lacking in our youth. Imagine what benefits a young apprentice could gain from 2-12 months spent in another country. Erasmus + is brand new so it is difficult for us to establish whether this scheme will be a success or not, but from the positive feedback higher education students have gained from Erasmus we can hope that it will. Europe is important for youth, Erasmus + is saying to youngsters that you can hope for a better future and the EU is going to help you in doing it. How can we possibly emerge a stronger country when we turn our backs on a continent we belong to? I seriously think that UKIP haven’t got a care about young people. We cannot become independent and still gain all the positive benefits from Europe.
I thank you for reading this post. Erasmus is something I really want to praise for being basically awesome! Until next time!