The Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECD) published the conditions needed to receive Erasmus grants in their official bulletin for October, and it has cut them unexpectedly, leaving funding in the air for thousands of Spanish students who had already been abroad since the beginning of their school year.
The Erasmus program is a European community project that allows European student to complete one year of their university careers in another country. Spanish students are subsidized in part by the Ministry of Education (about 115 €), the European Union (about 110 €), and some also receive subsidies from their autonomous communities (about 150 € on average).
The Spanish Ministry of Education tends to publish the conditions for obtaining a state grant when students have already started the year in the country of their choice. Until now, the conditions [es] have not changed significantly and, in general, required a valid academic transcript and a certain fluency in the language in which the courses would be taught.
This year, however, without any prior indication of a radical change, the ministry decided to restrict its subsidy to students who had been granted a general scholarship during the 2012/2013 school year [es]. This limitation left thousands of students without a portion of their funding, putting the continuity of their studies abroad at risk and forcing them to return to Spain and begin the year one month after their peers.
The students, led by Germán Fernández [es], mobilized themselves on social networks to raise awareness of their situation to the public. The petition for MECD to keep the scholarships [es], created on Change.org by Laura Zornoza, collected over 200,000 signatures in just a few hours. On Twitter hashtags #Erasmus, #SalvemosErasmus [#SaveErasmus], #RIPErasmus and the words “Erasmus” and “Wert” (the Spanish minister of Education) became trending topics:
Darle el ministerio a Wert ha sido como darle una navaja a un mono #educación #ERASMUS http://t.co/AKoppqBOic
— El Señor Gordo (@elsenorgordo) November 5, 2013
Giving the ministry to Wert has been like giving a knife to a monkey
La insoportable levedad del Wert ahora en directo en @HoyporHoySER Este ministro no ostenta el ministerio, lo perpetra….#Erasmus
— Fani Grande (@fanigrande) November 5, 2013
The unbearable lightness of Wert now live on @HoyporHoySER This minister does not occupy the ministry, he perpetrates it…
Ridículo internacional de nuevo con el intento de #RIPErasmus. Este Gobierno además de estar cargado de incompetentes…cuanta mala leche!!
— Maribel (@maribel_ostos) November 6, 2013
International ridicule all over again with the #RIPErasmus intent. This Government also full of incompetent people… how mean!!
El Erasmus d Wert viene a ser como una mili en los boinas verdes: te sueltan en un monte y te buscas la vida.
— Pilar Lopez (@29_octu) November 6, 2013
Wert's Erasmus is becoming like a militant in the green berets: They drop you on a hill and you try to survive.
No se recorta a la Casa Real por que solo son 7 millones, pero se recorta a los erasmus, que son 16…
— Adrián Monroy (@amonroy91) November 6, 2013
They don't make cuts to the royal family because that is only 7 million, but they make cuts to Erasmus, which is 16…
Some accused the students of lazying around abroad at the public's expense:
@Gato_directo @Jiwert La mayoría de becados erasmus son estudiantes del montón que se pegan la vida padre en el extranjero. — Raúl Quirós (@Quiros1978) November 4, 2013
The majority of the Erasmus grantees are run of the mill students enjoying the good life abroad.
And they received harsh criticisms in return:
Hay gente q cree q los estudiantes no merecen becas Erasmus. Debe ser el único país d Europa con estas ideas. Este es el nivel..#RIPErasmus
— Fotomovimiento (@Fotomovimiento) November 4, 2013
There are people who think that students don't deserve the Erasmus grants. It must be the only country in Europe with these ideas. This is the level.. #RIPErasmus
Una beca Erasmus aporta muchísimo más que todos los años de carrera juntos. Pero claro, el bienestar de las personas lo último. #RIPErasmus
— zara (@zaradenutella) November 4, 2013
An Erasmus scholarship provides so much more than all of the college years put together. But of course, people's well-being is last.
¿Qué tipo de trastorno tienen los que defienden a políticos semianalfabetos y atacan a los #Erasmus?
— Piruleta de menta (@Piruletadementa) November 4, 2013
How unhinged are the people who are defending semi-illiterate politicians and attacking #Erasmus?
The Directorate General of Communication, Content, and Technology Networks (DG Connect) of the European Commission also posted the following message on their Twitter account:
Is this really necessary? Spanish minister of education cuts on #erasmus fund forcing Spaniards to come back home http://t.co/PMlKuvWdbW
— Open Up EducationEU (@telearnEU) November 4, 2013
Even the New Generations of the Popular Party, to which the government belongs, issued a statement claiming:
… no podemos compartir la decisión tomada por el Ministerio de Educación sobre la aportación complementaria del Estado en el programa Erasmus, ya que se ha realizado una vez empezado el curso , lo cual deja en una situación de inseguridad a cientos de universitarios españoles que han decidido cursar una beca Erasmus este año.
… we cannot share the decision taken by the Ministry of Education regarding the State's supplemental contribution to the Erasmus program, as it has been done once the year has started, which leaves hundreds of Spanish university students who have decided to take on an Erasmus grant this year in an insecure situation.
The European Commission also ruled in the same manner. According to the newspaper Público [es],
La decisión de las autoridades españolas debería haberse anunciado a los estudiantes antes del inicio del año universitario ─ha denunciado el portavoz del Ejecutivo comunitario, Olivier Bailly─. Los estudiantes que están actualmente en el programa Erasmus para el año 2013-2014 se encuentran penalizados y deberían haber sido informados de la suspensión o del cambio de la aportación nacional que les correspondía”, ha resaltado.
The decision of the Spanish authorities should have been announced to students before the start of the academic year ─ EU executive spokesperson Olivier Bailly ─. The students currently in the Erasmus program for 2013-2014 are penalized and should have been informed of the suspension or the change in the national contribution that corresponded to them,” he highlighted.
This entire flood of criticism, which several prominent members of government's party itself have joined [es], has paid off and the Ministry of Education announced on November 5 that they will maintain the grants for all Erasmus students that are “transitory and limited to the 2013-2014 year”. The Ministry of Finance will allocate an extraordinary budget of 20 million euros [es].
Even so, the measure is not convincing citizens, who are conscious of the fact that this aid will disappear following 2014 for students that do not have regular grants. Sergio Gepetto [es] commented on this on ainformacion.com [es]:
Pero qué marcha atrás ni que marcha atrás!!!! Eso que ha hecho Wert es una maniobra de distracción total, anunciar una burrada y para que os conforméis con lo más mínimo, “ha reculado” como dicen.
No le deis tanto bombo que eso es lo que quieren.
But what a step back!!!! What Wert has done is a complete diversion, announcing nonsense so that you all resign yourselves to the least, “he has backed down” as they say.
Don't give him so much hype because that is what they want.
Unbelievable… Messing with money that is supposed to be given to students? That’s the worst.
Absolutely disgusting! Erasmus brings so many advantages for all of Europe, and it’s so unfair to just change the rules for the people who have already started their courses