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Spanish Minister of Education and Research Ignácio Wert has been forced to review his plans to cut funding for Spanish Erasmus students earlier this month. A controversial decision by the Ministry of Education and Research published at the end of October in the Spanish law gazette spurred immense outrage among Spanish students which eventually led to a rectification of the planned cuts in the Erasmus funding scheme.
Erasmus grants for Spanish students are composed of three funding sources – the European Commission’s Erasmus mobility programme, the Spanish Ministry of Education and in some cases local authorities the Autonomous Communities. Many Autonomous Communities decreased their contribution in the past and five regions even completely stopped support for Erasmus funding. The decision made by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Research foresaw a cut in funding from the Spanish State by limiting mobility grants only to students who were already beneficiaries of the beca general, the general government grant for students with a very low family income. However, students have already started their Erasmus year abroad without having been properly informed the new provisions before the publication of the Ministry’s decision in the Spanish law gazette.
EU spokesperson Olivier Bailly stressed that the Spanish government should have informed the students before the start of the academic year. The late announcement of cuts in spending left thousands of Spanish students who were suddenly declared ineligible for their home government’s student mobility contribution of EUR 150. Numerous student campaigns were initiated and an online petition, which gained significant media attention, was signed by more than 200 000 supporters within less than two weeks. Harsh criticism from students, universities, rectors and the opposition forced the governing party Partido Popular to acknowledge not having met their obligations to inform outgoing students in time. Accordingly, the decision of the Ministry of Education was rectified for the academic year 2013/14. However, Ignácio Wert announced that the decision would come into force starting from the academic year 2014/15 onwards.
Although the issue seems to have been resolved for this year’s outgoing Spanish students, fewer students will benefit from their home governments student mobility funding in the future. Ignácio Wert justifies this step by underscoring the need to make sacrifices for those students with the lowest family income. In any case, Spain’s glory as number one in Europe with almost 40 000 outgoing Erasmus students will most likely fade as a result of the new measure.
Spanish law gazette (in Spanish)
Change.org - Erasmus online petition (in Spanish)