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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]


Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

250,000 UK students, apprentices and volunteers get chance to experience Europe with Erasmus+

Erasmus+ launch conference

London, 28 April 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you to launch Erasmus+, the European Union's new funding programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport. I am very grateful to the British Council and Ecorys for hosting this event, and I would like to warmly thank Minister for Skills Matthew Hancock for his support today. His presence underlines the Government's commitment to ensuring more young people have the opportunity to develop their skills and employability.

Let me say from the outset that Erasmus+ is a prime example of the major benefits that EU membership brings for Britain – and especially for the young generation. As we approach the European elections, I urge candidates from all parties who see Britain's place at the heart of Europe, and leading in Europe, to speak up about the opportunities that Europe offers.

Erasmus+ stands for cooperation, diversity, freedom of movement and solidarity. Indeed, today we are starting a new chapter in a fantastic success story.

Erasmus has been opening minds and changing lives for more than 25 years. More than three million people across Europe have already benefitted.

With a new budget of almost 15 billion euros or 12 billion pounds over the next seven years – 40 per cent higher than before – Erasmus+ will expand that opportunity to four million more people, giving them the chance to study, train, work or volunteer in a new country, in a new culture, in a new language, with new friends.

In 2014, the UK will receive nearly 100 million pounds from Erasmus+. Between now and 2020, Erasmus+ will provide grants for nearly a quarter of a million UK students, apprentices and young volunteers, as well as teachers, trainers and youth staff, to gain precious experience abroad. That's a 50% increase compared with our previous mobility programmes.

By studying, training, working or volunteering in another country, young people develop skills that will serve them for the rest of their life. They learn to live and work with people from another culture and experience a different way of thinking. They see the world through the eyes of someone else. In short, they open their minds.

I hope that the UK will take full advantage of the opportunities on offer. Our aim is for a better balance between the number of incoming and outbound Erasmus students in each participating country. For many years now, around twice as many students have been coming to the UK for Erasmus studies or traineeships than heading in the opposite direction.

I want to see that change. It has never been easier for British students to take advantage of Erasmus. We are offering tailored online refresher courses to improve language skills before they start – and, for those who are less adventurous, more and more universities abroad are also offering courses in English!

Erasmus+ is not only about individual mobility, though. It contributes to improving the quality of education and training at all levels.

For instance, together with our Member States, we have agreed that early school leaving is an urgent priority; Erasmus+ will share the best solutions from across Europe. We have identified poor reading skills as a serious problem; Erasmus+ will fund new cross-border projects to tackle it. We know that our foreign language skills are falling behind, particularly in countries like Britain; Erasmus+ will support initiatives to boost them.

We need to open up education to new technologies; Erasmus+ will support better use of ICT for learners and teachers. Our vocational training systems are too often failing our young people; Erasmus+ will help to modernise them.

Students wishing to study for a full Master's degree abroad find it difficult to secure loans; Erasmus+ will provide a guarantee making it easier for them to get loans. Our universities do not work closely enough with businesses; Erasmus+ will bring them together to create new alliances fostering innovation.

In all of these challenges, national ministries and education departments will continue to play the leading role alongside the institutions of learning and the teachers who bring the vision to life.

But the European Union can now offer more support and more resources than ever before. The world of education is itself globalising and facing a set of common challenges that demand cooperation, the cross-border transfer of innovation and the sharing of ideas. This is why Erasmus+ marks a new partnership between all the actors at all levels, from the local to the European to the global.

Our role in the European Commission is also to enrich the learning of young people by guiding them along the informal routes of education and training, and promoting civic participation.

Our EU Youth Strategy in particular underlines the importance of youth work, which allows young people to develop their self-confidence, build up skills, and receive support to overcome personal and social problems.

We encourage young people to participate in the democratic process and we also engage in dialogue with organisations representing young people and facilitate their participation in the shaping of national policies.

This is how Erasmus+ will work, building partnerships that can help people of all ages to improve their competences and skills - in a way that formal education systems often fail to do.

Erasmus+ also means a Europe that is open to the world. For the first time, our new programme is open to third countries, allowing students from around the globe to spend part of their studies in an EU country and vice versa.

Dear Friends,

Let me also refer to a paradox we face in Europe. Today, two million jobs across the EU are waiting for the right profile while unemployment is unacceptably high. Reforming our systems of vocational education and training are part of the response to this paradox.

Those countries with strong vocational systems often enjoy lower levels of youth unemployment. In recent years, the UK has taken action to improve skills proficiency among young people, raising the age of compulsory schooling, introducing traineeships for low-skilled young people and enhancing the quality of apprenticeships.

I can only encourage the UK to pursue this approach. Erasmus+ will help to fund new alliances between training providers and businesses to modernise vocational teaching and boost the quality and quantity of apprenticeships across Europe.

Last but not least, Erasmus+ will also include a section dedicated to sport – for the very first time in the EU budget.

Our aim is twofold: on the one hand, we intend to tackle the trans-national threats that plague the world of sport, like match-fixing, violence and doping, through joint projects that bring together key actors from across the continent.

And on the other hand, we want to promote the social value of sport – where sport serves as a vehicle for change, for social inclusion, health or dual careers.

Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

We have a duty to modernise our education and training systems, both formal and informal. They need to offer the right mix of skills that life in a complex society demands.

And we have a duty to help young people make the transition from one phase of education to the next and, ultimately, to the world of work. This is a mission where we cannot afford to fail: we must give our young people the tools that will allow them to find their own path to happiness, fulfilment and a place in society. This is where Europe can make a difference.

Erasmus+ responds to this call. It offers a new partnership between all the actors of education, training and youth. It offers a new partnership between education and the world of work. And it offers four million people the chance to study, train, work or volunteer in another country.

Let us stand up for a Europe that is open among its neighbours and open to the world. This is my hope for Europe's young people. This is my vision for Erasmus+.

Thank you.

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