Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Department of Education and Skills
537. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to protect the access of Northern Ireland applicants to the Erasmus programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5623/21]
In response to expressed concerns by civic society in Northern Ireland, the Irish Government has committed to facilitating the continued access to Erasmus mobilities for higher education students in NI institutions. Officials in my Department have engaged with their counterpart in the Department of the Economy in Northern Ireland on this matter.
It is planned that eligible students studying in Northern Ireland will register with higher education institutions in this jurisdiction for the duration of their planned mobility.Officials in my Department have been working with the Higher Education Authority as the National Agency for Erasmus in Ireland, along with representatives from higher education institutions, North and South to develop detailed operational procedures for the scheme.
It is intended that the scheme will be in place for 2021/ 2022 academic year.
538. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has engaged with his UK counterpart and relevant EU officials offering a pathway back into the Erasmus+ programme for students in Scotland, Wales and England; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5633/21]
Provision was made in the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, which would enable the UK Government to continue its participation in Erasmus programme. However, it decided not to avail of this mechanism.
It is open to the UK Government to apply to the EU Commission at any future stage to participate in the scheme. Acceptance of such an application would facilitate the participation of Scottish, Welsh and English in Erasmus mobilities.
539. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if plans are in place to ensure that third-level students will have access to the Erasmus+ programme in the academic year 2021-2022 despite Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5634/21]
The Erasmus+ programme is the main avenue through which my Department and the Higher Education community support studying abroad for third-level students. The European Commission has been engaged in work to examine what is possible given the current state of the pandemic across Europe.
The European Commission approved the new work programme for Erasmus+ (2021-2028) in December 2020. The Higher Education Authority (HEA), which acts as the National Agency for the Erasmus+ Higher Education programme, is expecting to announce a call for applications to all participating Higher Education Institutions in March 2021. The HEA is working with the Sector to help it to benefit from the flexible approach proposed in the new Erasmus programme. In response to suggestions to the European Commission made over a number of years, shorter duration mobilities and the use of blended modes of participation are now being introduced. These measures will help widen opportunities for learning mobilities in our higher education sector, but the ability to take these up will of course depend on the prevailing circumstances at the time.
In 2021/2022, students and staff will have the opportunity to undertake a physical mobility to their chosen destination, depending on restrictions in place at at that time, should the circumstances surrounding international travel and the Covid-19 pandemic permit this. Students can also undertake a blended mobility approach, combining a period of physical mobility with a period of virtual learning. If international travel is not possible, students can do a virtual mobility for the entire duration of their Erasmus experience
540. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the breakdown of third-level students who have availed of the Erasmus+ programme in the 2020-2021 academic year; the number of third-level students who abandoned their plans to avail of the Erasmus+ programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5635/21]
Despite disruptions to the programme caused by the pandemic, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which is the national agency with responsibility for the Erasmus+ programme at Higher Education level, oversaw 4079 Erasmus outbound mobilities from Ireland (3876 students and 203 staff) and 8655 incoming mobilities to Ireland (7648 students and 1007 staff) for the 2019/2020 period. The Higher Education Institutions are still in the process of returning the 2020-2021 figures to the HEA, but initial indications are that these figures will be just under half of the previous year's totals.
My Department and its Agencies and Higher education institutions will continue to take into consideration the public health advice available during these challenging times and will continue to work with students, their representatives and the European Commission to ensure a safe and continued Erasmus+ experience.
541. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if provisions will be made for third-level students that planned to avail of the Erasmus+ programme in the 2020-2021 academic year but subsequently abandoned their plans to study abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5636/21]
The European Commission has provided funds to assist Erasmus students with costs incurred as part of cancelled or rearranged mobilities this year. In cases where students had to cancel their Erasmus mobility due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the student is entitled to receive support in covering their travel expenses if they were not able to cancel their travel booking and where reimbursement from the carrier company/insurance was not possible.
In any case, the student should provide evidence that a booking was made and that their efforts to recover the costs from the airline/insurance were unsuccessful. If a student had already paid a deposit for accommodation or had incurred additional costs in advance of their departure, this will also be accepted as eligible for reimbursement provided evidence is given which indicates that this expenditure cannot be recovered.
These measures are being managed by the Erasmus coordinators in the education institutions, and they will be able to offer guidance and assistance with any issues Erasmus students may be experiencing.