Looking to the future: What’s next for Erasmus at Charles University?

By Ryan Blacklaws

The Erasmus scheme at Charles University has always been hugely successful, with the university playing an integral part in its programmes for many years.

Former programmes such as Socrates I, Socrates II, and the Lifelong Learning Programme have all excelled at giving students the experience of studying abroad. The current programme Erasmus+ has been underway for four years now, and the university has started planning for the next Erasmus phase, which is due to be implemented in 2020/2021.

Since the Erasmus programme was established in 1987, great progress has been made. The first year saw 3,244 students from 11 different European countries take part. More than 30 years later, Erasmus has seen over nine million students travel abroad, and the number of countries involved has trebled.

Charles University has participated in the highly praised Erasmus scheme since the Czech Republic joined the programme in 1998. The current programme, Erasmus+, has been in motion since 2014 and is due to finish in 2020. Plans are shaping up for the next seven-year programme, and the future of Erasmus at Charles University looks bright.

Erasmus+ has a great deal of importance for the university, with it sending 1,300 of its students abroad every year and receiving nearly 1,900 in return. The programme offers a range of enriching opportunities for students which often would otherwise be inaccessible and allows them to embrace other cultures.

Students receive credits when taking part in an Erasmus+ programme through the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS). This is a credit system which allows students to transfer the credits they gain from one university to another and are then added together to contribute to a student’s degree.The ECTS is crucial to Erasmus+ as it helps to simplify how many credits a student receives for their studies. This helps to eradicate any potential problems regarding the recognition of educational qualifications a student may have received from another country.

Dr Ivana Herglova, head of the Erasmus programme at Charles University, has worked at the university since 2007. She said: “The new programme starting in 2020/2021 is still being planned, and the name of it has still not been decided upon, although ‘Erasmus++’ tends to get jokingly used when referring to it. Let’s see what the real name is going to be.”

Although this name is not set in stone, Ms Herglová added that the next programme will keep the same events as the current one and will most definitely keep ‘Erasmus’ in its name, as it has become somewhat of a flagship word when discussing students travelling abroad.

However, not everything will remain the same. Ms Herglová pointed out that the next programme will see an increase in the budget, and there could be a change to which countries are involved. The result of the EU Referendum in the UK has raised some difficulties. Whilst the UK is still able to take part in the current Erasmus+ for its final two years, it may not be able to participate in the following programme due to Brexit uncertainties. For instance, when Switzerland voted to limit the immigration to the country, affecting thereby in particular the neighbouring countries of the European Union, it was no longer allowed to take part in Erasmus, and had to set up its own organisation (the Swiss-

European Mobility Programme) to replace it. The future of the United Kingdom being an Erasmus partner is unclear, which might complicate matters not only for Charles University, as it is one of the most popular places for Czech as well as other European students to study in due to English being a common second language across Europe. Charles University nevertheless has important links to the UK, with Ms Herglová adding: “The University has sent out 12% of its outbound Erasmus students to the UK, and we have taken in 6% of our inbound Erasmus students from there this year.”

Ms Herglová also placed importance on the International Credit Mobility scheme, which was introduced as part of Erasmus+ back in 2014. This saw 9.5 million Euros of funding being set aside for Higher Education Institutions to apply for, in order to help pay for staff and students to be sent abroad. International Credit Mobility can be used to fund institutions in Programme and Partner countries, and the budget is supplied by five different European Union strands (European Neighbourhood Instrument, Development Co-operation Instrument, European Development Fund, Instrument for Pre-accession, and Partnership Instrument). The International Credit Mobility enables student and staff exchanges beyond the EU, EFTA and candidate countries of the EU, which are the traditional Erasmus countries (officially referred to as Programme countries).

Plans are also in place for other upcoming projects. The French President, Mr Emmanuel Macron, has already put forward his vision for a ‘University Networks’ programme, which will allegedly consist of 20 European university networks, although the name and full details of the project remain unclear at present.

Charles University was one of four prestigious European universities to sign the ‘4EU’ agreement in March this year, a preparatory project of the upcoming ‘University Networks’ scheme, along with the Sorbonne University in Paris, Heidelberg University, and the University of Warsaw.

This signing bore huge significance to the future of international student exchange programmes and was one of the first landmark agreements made since Macron announced his intentions. The 4EU alliance could also be seen as a step forward for achieving a shared multilingual Europe. Second languages are dying out in Europe (apart from English) so this alliance could help to keep Europe multilingual.

The future of Erasmus at Charles University is certainly exciting, although plans are still in development, as there is an immense amount of organisation put into each programme. Overall, Erasmus continues to be an astounding success at Charles University, with the programme offering life-changing experiences. The next programme aims to give students and staff an even more diverse range of opportunities.

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