Tuesday 21 May 2019

A brilliant shower moment that is broadening minds

A message from the Higher Education Authority

Gerry O'Sullivan.
Gerry O'Sullivan.


Thirty years ago, the then European Commission official Alan Smith, was given a task one Friday evening. He had to come back on Monday with the name for a new student study abroad programme that the EC had just approved. Like many another idea, Alan had his "Eureka" moment in the shower when the idea came to him of naming the initiative after Erasmus of Rotterdam - the Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian.

It was an inspired moment and with a little bit of creative licence he managed to encapsulate the letters of Erasmus into the full title of the programme - European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

Three decades later, 4.4m higher education students Europe-wide have left the comfort zone of their home institution to spend study or traineeship visits in another European country, among them some 55,000 students from Ireland.

The programme, the largest of its type in the world, has been an outstanding success so much that the term "Erasmus" is now the internationally understood shorthand for those who study abroad no matter what the funding background.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the Irish Erasmus+ National Agency for higher education. Dr. Graham Love, the HEA Chief Executive, says "it is often overlooked that some 35 higher education institutions in this country have agreed that their students can be part-educated in partner institutions overseas.

"Students take their courses, often in another language; sit their exams and receive the appropriate credit to enable them to proceed to graduation at their home institution.

"It is a clear statement of the trust that has been established between member countries and that collaboration of this type brings real added value."

The programme has now expanded to cover all parts of the globe, thanks to significant additional investment by the EU. In the lifetime of the current programme (2014-2020), in the region of €100million, in one form or another, will be invested by the EU in Irish higher education institutions supporting 25,000 students and more than 2,000 staff.

Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairéad McGuinness MEP is a staunch supporter. She describes Erasmus+ as "a real example of how Europe works to bring people together, giving them access to other countries' education systems, cultures and ways of life.

"It is a fantastic programme which broadens minds beyond the lecture halls and deepens relationships between students - preparing them for the world that lies ahead."

Gerry O'Sullivan is Head of International Education, Higher Education Authority (HEA)

Erasmus+ National Agency.


Irish Independent

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