The Erasmus programme is one of the European Commission’s most popular. Everyone has heard of it. And if you had the chance to take part in one of those Erasmus exchange programmes in your youthful days, you’ve probably got a smile on your face right now.
At Europa Media we’re experts in R&I programmes. In fact, from different Framework Programmes to the close to ending Horizon2020, research has always been an ever-present leitmotif in our projects.
But there was one year when we took part in two Erasmus projects: back in 2006 that we were partners in two of those projects: EU Business for IT SMEs and PROUD.
To better understand why we have only a few Erasmus projects in our portfolio and why we are planning to explore this programme further, we interviewed Gabriella Lovász, EMG Managing Director.
Could you tell us briefly what these two Erasmus projects were about?
They both started in 2006 and finished in 2008, the first projects at Europa Media Non-profit, and that made all the more significant. In EU Business for IT SMEs we further exploited an eLearning platform that one of our partners already had. With that platform, we wanted to help SMEs that focused on IT to enter the EU market. We realised that they needed more knowledge on the EU single market, data and other basic business-culture types of information extended with tailored eMentoring services.
PROUD, on the other hand, was addressed to local authorities. We trained the staff in the local authorities in different Member States. The purpose was to spread the concept and practice of urban sustainable development, which was one of the European Commission’s priorities at the time.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when applying and running those projects?
It’s a bit hard to say, but what I found the most challenging is also what I liked the most: the level of commitment from the partners.
In Erasmus projects the whole approach is different to research and innovation projects. The attitude of the consortium somehow feels more enthusiastic. Probably this is linked to the nature of the project. Erasmus projects tend to be more practical, and the partners are often smaller institutions that work closer to the real beneficiaries of the projects, like teachers and students.
Overall, the level of commitment from the partners is something that really stood out: it seems that, in Erasmus, the funding received is almost secondary, and that partners are more purpose-driven. The funding received is infinitely smaller than any H2020 project, and that small amount has to be split between the whole partnership.
You really get the feeling that Erasmus projects go beyond the funding received and that they really want to complete the project with some sort of product that can be then used for capacity-building.
Why haven’t you taken part in any Erasmus projects since then?
In all honesty, one of the main reasons was staff costs and their limitations. I love Erasmus, and I love its approach, I love its objectives and how it provides opportunities for teachers and trainers, but, from the private company perspective, there are some hiccups. Budget limitations are discouraging as a whole and from our experience and knowledge of the rules, we know that the effort involved would be much more than what can be claimed.
Also, over the years, we have built a strong knowledge of the administration and management of R&I projects, so for us it just became easier and more natural to keep applying to R&I.
Does developing an Erasmus project mean anything else to you?
Although I’ve just described the reasons why Erasmus projects are not the best option for us, I still miss their direct approach and want to get involved in more Erasmus projects next year. The positive impact you see on teachers and children is something you don’t necessarily see in a research project. We are a training organisation, and I think we could really work towards the creation of a better digital education methodology, focus on STEM education and maybe on even how to train young researchers.
What is the main difference between Erasmus and H2020?
Where to start! Of course, they have a very different approach and a different logic. The way activities are put together is also completely different. Exploitation, innovation, administration, management…they are hard to compare.
The lead beneficiary in Erasmus has also a lot more legal and financial responsibility, compared to H2020. Personnel costs and the budget overall are a lot more limited in Erasmus.
But you get this positive feedback from teachers and children and you can see new methodologies being implemented by teachers straight away, which is what I like the most.
What do you think the new programme will focus on improving?
The new programme will better connect the European counterparts through alliances, networks and bigger budgets and projects overall. It will be easier to exchange best practices and information, making it easier for organisations to learn from other EU counterparts, even if, at the end of the day, the educational policies are valid at national level.
Another important word is inclusion. Smaller organisations, such as local NGOs and schools, will have easier access to funding. We’re not talking about huge amounts, but it’ll be quantities they’ll be able to manage more easily and they’ll still make great impact with it.
To learn more about Erasmus, I recommend two documents that the EU has published so far: the European Education Area and the Digital Education Action Plan.