In these times, the coronavirus crisis has been dominating EU politics. The closure of educational institutions has an immense impact on Europe’s educational systems. The Erasmus+ mobility programme is particularly affected by the crisis. In the research sector, the EU is now primarily supporting research efforts into the novel virus.
- The EU’s ministers of education met on 14 April to discuss the effects of the coronavirus crisis on educational systems, in particular the challenges posed by the transition to distance learning (Link). On 18 May they agreed to discuss the achievements of digital learning at a video conference in June.
- The EU Commission has posted online learning resources on its website.
- The European Students’ Union is organising a webinar series on e-learning opportunities and academic accreditation.
The closure of higher education institutions and mobility restrictions imposed on citizens in many EU countries are preventing ongoing and planned Erasmus+ activities. The EU Commission has granted the national agencies and project leaders the greatest degree of flexibility possible within the applicable legal framework and has made it clear that the safety and protection of all programme participants must take priority. The Commission has published a factsheet and FAQ on the measures of the Erasmus+ programme. The following regulations, among others, can apply:
- Project leaders can invoke the “force majeure” clause for their programme implementation. It includes, for instance, the option of terminating mobility measures early, postponing and recognising additional costs up to the amount of the original support.
- Planned activities can be postponed for up to 12 months. According to the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, this also applies to mobility measures conducted by European Universities.
- Higher education institutions are urged to offer flexible and pragmatic solutions so that exchange students can achieve their learning results, e.g. through e-learning, in their host country and their home country and can earn ECTS points.
- The application deadlines for all calls in Erasmus+ have been extended (Link).
The education committee of the Parliament issued a press release urging the Commission to support Erasmus+ students, reimburse additional costs and apply rules as flexibly as possible to prevent students from losing an academic year.
To the chat with MEP Verheyen
EU education ministers also call for “flexible approaches and cooperation” with regard to the autonomy of higher education institutions since coronavirus may has implications on continuation of cross-border learning mobility (Link).
From the students’ point of view
The Erasmus+ National Agency within the DAAD regularly publishes current information and action recommendations for handling Erasmus+ mobility on their website:
- FAQ for higher education institutions
- FAQ for students
- FAQ for strategic partnerships and cooperation projects
- List of measures by Erasmus+ programme and partner countries
ERAvsCORONA action plan
The EU research ministers decided on an action plan (“ERAvsCORONA” action plan) in early April – an initial bundle of 10 jointly coordinated measures for combating the pandemic, which can be implemented very quickly. It includes in particular the financing of European research and innovation projects, the joint use of scientific data and infrastructure, as well as the establishment of a high-level task force. The joint list of measures is to be updated and expanded continuously in coordination between the EU Commission and member states.
The following other initiatives are part of the “ERAvsCorona” action plan:
- COVID-19 Data Portal for accelerating research through data sharing: The EU Commission, together with member states and other partners, has launched a European platform for data on coronavirus research. The aim is to quickly collect the available research data and make it jointly usable – “across disciplines, health systems and borders”, said von der Leyen.
- Pan-European Hackathon “EUvsVirus”: The hackathon took place from 24-26 April and brought together innovators, partners and buyers across Europe to develop innovative solutions in the fight against coronavirus. Almost 21,000 participants from 41 countries, including 389 from Germany, submitted 2,160 proposals, 270 of which were in the field of teleworking and education. 117 ideas were selected. A total of over 100,000 EUR will be distributed to the winners.
- Mathathon “EUvsVirus”: All winners will be invited to the matchathon from 22-25 May on the new EIC COVID platform. The online matchmaking is intended to bring together the future users of the solutions developed and to provide access to investors, companies, foundations and other funding opportunities from the EU.
EU research projects on coronavirus
As part of the emergency call on the coronavirus crisis, the EU Commission has chosen a total of 18 research and innovation projects for sponsorship. 140 research teams from all over Europe are receiving a total budget of 48.5 million EUR for improving epidemiology and public health, diagnostic tests, therapies and vaccines. German research teams are involved in 12 projects.
European Research Area Corona Platform
The new European Research Area (ERA) corona platform is relevant for EU funding projects. This is where all important information on the coronavirus pandemic is summarised, such as extended deadlines, activities of member states relating to the COVID-19 outbreak and FAQ on Horizon 2020.
EU Pledging Conference on COVID-19
At the EU Commission’s online pledging conference started on 4 May as part of the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures commitments totalling 9.8 billion EUR have been recorded from around the world so far (1.4 billion EUR from the European Commission and 525 million EUR from Germany).
The Global Pledging Summit will end on 27 June. Commission President von der Leyen invites for the final under the campaign name “Global Goal: Unite for our Future”, cooperating with “Global Citizen” (Link).
Future EU budget 2021–2027
In addition, EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel is urging the EU member states to agree on a multi-year budget to avoid delays for critical research. She emphasises that the quick mobilisation of funds for coronavirus research and innovation has proven once again that Horizon 2020 is a flexible programme that can adapt to the immediate needs of citizens and at the same time address long-term problems.
The DAAD is constantly following the developments regarding coronavirus and flexibly adapting its activities to changing situations. We maintain close contact with our scholarship holders and higher education partners. Current effects on the activities of the DAAD can be followed here.