Erasmus+, one of the EU's iconic and most successful programmes, today adds an online version to its mobility actions, to link more students and young people from European countries and the Southern neighbourhood of the EU.
The European Commission has today launched Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange, a project to promote intercultural dialogue and improve the skills of at least 25,000 young people through digital learning tools over the next two years. The project covers the 33 Erasmus+ programme countries and the Southern Mediterranean region covering Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine*, Syria and Tunisia.
The online version of Erasmus+ will complement the traditional physical mobility programme and could in the future be extended to other regions of the world.
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: "While a very successful programme, Erasmus+ is not always accessible to everyone. Through Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange we will facilitate more contacts between people, reach youth from different social backgrounds and promote intercultural understanding. This online tool will connect more young people from the EU with their peers from other countries; it will build bridges and help develop skills such as critical thinking, media literacy, foreign languages and teamwork.”
Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange will connect young people, youth workers, students and academics from European countries and the Southern neighbourhood of the EU through moderated discussions, transnational project groups, open online courses and advocacy training. For instance, young people from different countries will be able to connect once a week to discuss topics such as economic developments or climate change facilitated by a moderator and on the basis of preparatory material distributed beforehand.
All activities will take place as part of higher education programmes or organised youth projects. During its preparatory phase, Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange raised interest among universities and youth organisations and 50 partnerships have already been set up and 40 people have been trained as facilitators to moderate debates.
Contacts and exchanges with peers from abroad are a great opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills as well as to enhance tolerance and mutual acceptance. Virtual Exchange promotes intercultural dialogue between young people, in line with the Paris Declaration agreed at the informal meeting of EU Education Ministers in March 2015. The Declaration aims at promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education.
During the pilot phase, with a budget of €2 million until December 2018, Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange will reach at least 8,000 young people. If successful, the aim is to renew it until the end of 2019 to reach 17,000 more people. In the future, Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange could become a regular action and be expanded to reach even more young people in other regions.
Erasmus+ already supports learning and teaching mobility between the EU's Southern Neighbourhood and the EU. Since 2015, over 1,000 projects have been funded between European and Southern Mediterranean universities, which plan to enable around 15,000 students and staff from the Southern Mediterranean to come to Europe, while over 7,000 Europeans will teach or study in those countries. In addition, around 2,200 young people from countries in the Southern neighbourhood of the EU and youth workers are involved in non-formal learning projects each year.