Malta’s grant system praised by European students

European students call for more investments in the grant system for higher education in Europe.

European students say Malta's grant system sets an example to EU member states.
European students say Malta's grant system sets an example to EU member states.

Students across Europe have called for more investments in the grant system for higher education in Europe much rather than to introduce a new loan scheme like the European Commission has proposed.

In making its case, the European Students Union used Malta as an example to show how structural funds could support the study grant system. Referring to the launch of the Master It scholarships - were government has now increased the fund to €2 million - the students pointed to how the European Social Fund programme 2007 to 2013 was being utilised to improve access of diverse social groups to higher education and the skill-set of workers.

Specific thematic objectives have been set for the European Social Fund in relation to higher education as part of the EU2020 strategy, meaning that the funds could be used to improve the quality, efficiency and openness of tertiary and equivalent education with a view to increasing participation and attainment costs. This includes measures to increase participation of under-represented groups, improving graduates transition to the labour market, strengthening education infrastructures and complementing the Erasmus for All programme after 2014.

"Malta is leading the way by setting an example of alternative measures that can be taken in order to improve access and mobility in higher education. Instead of offering loans, that only increase the debt level of students, it has decided to strengthen its scholarship system, by raising the budget to two million euros. This example from Malta shows us that there is a potential within the EU funds to support the grant system for higher education much more than has been done," ESU chairperson Karina Ufert said.

The students are demanding that the European Parliament and Council look at alternative measures on how student mobility can be enhanced instead of including the loan facility in the Erasmus for all programme starting in 2014.

In a resolution passed by 47 national unions of students in Europe, the students encouraged the European Commission to make necessary arrangements to strengthen the current Erasmus grant scheme, rather than waste money on unpopular proposals, such as a loan scheme.

"On the other hand, the European Commission should encourage the Member States to introduce necessary changes in the legislation to allow full portability of national support services. In a time of debt crisis and austerity measures, the EU should not be encouraging young people to take on more debt," the students said.

They argued that a loan scheme was unfeasible and failed to reflect students' needs. "We are appalled, that the proposal ignores the potential impact such a scheme can bring, such as raising the level of debt among young people or instigating a brain drain from less developed regions," they added. 

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