First Minister Carwyn Jones was guest of honour at a Cardiff Met event to mark 30 years of Erasmus.
Cardiff Met is one of the UK’s leading Higher Education Institutions for involvement with Erasmus initiatives securing €30m Erasmus Mundus Action 2 and Erasmus+ mobility funding over the last 30 years.
Over 100 guests attended the event at the University’s Llandaff Campus, including the British Council; Universities Wales; Honorary Consuls for Wales and colleagues from strategic partners Bridgend College and Cardiff and Vale College and members from the Welsh HE sector.
Erasmus+ has enabled Cardiff Met to develop working consortia with over 350 universities and organisations worldwide with a portfolio of projects. Professor Mohamed Loutfi, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff Met said: “This evening has demonstrated the pivotal role that Erasmus has played in not only supporting the Cardiff Met student experience, but also building capacity amongst our staff body, and supporting our advancement in internationalisation.
“As the UK now seeks to negotiate its future relationship with the EU, I do hope our negotiating stance is continuing full participation in the Erasmus programme.”
Dr Hywel Ceri Jones, one of the Founders of the ERASMUS European Educational Exchange Programme, delivered a keynote speech, congratulating Cardiff Met on its participation in E and its demonstration of a ‘strategic commitment to internationalisation as a central feature of the University’s mission.’
Prior to the launch of Erasmus+, Cardiff Met secured EU funding for six Erasmus Mundus Action 2 (EMA2) projects and is a leading UK university for gaining funding for such projects. Since securing two Tempus projects between 2009 and 2013, the University has been partner in 12 EMA2 projects.
Since the launch of Erasmus+ in 2014, this success has continued with obtaining further funding through Erasmus+ EU (KA103) and International Credit Mobility (KA107.)
In 2015, Cardiff Met was ranked third in the UK for Erasmus+ funding to facilitate 107 exchange mobilities of students and staff between Cardiff Met and its partner universities in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Dr Jones said: “By 2020 the Erasmus+ programme will have involved more than nine million students, apprentices, youth volunteers and staff. Loss of access to it post-Brexit would greatly diminish the ability of UK students to study elsewhere in the EU and for EU students to study in the UK.”
Dr Jones highlighted the uncertainties now facing the ERASMUS scheme and discussed potential UK-funded alternatives, saying: “This is the moment for the UK, with backing from the devolved Governments, to reaffirm commitment to full and continued engagement in ERASMUS programmes, anchored in a new cooperation agreement with our European partners which could also embrace security, environmental and cultural questions.
“Together with the growing pressures for the UK to secure continued membership of the internal market and protect our economy and our jobs, we could then at last be on a better track for the negotiations. If this does not succeed, our devolved Governments and Parliament should not agree to the deal.”
He continued: “I am passionately concerned that present and future generations of young people are able to continue to enjoy and benefit from an Erasmus experience.”
Jacqueline Jenkins, Head of Higher Education Engagement at the British Council and Cardiff Met students, staff and alumni who have participated in the Erasmus programme, also contributed to the event and demonstrated the invaluable impact the programme has had on both Higher Education in the UK (and Cardiff Met in particular) and the individual personal and professional lives of the beneficiaries.
The University is fully committed to striving to create similar opportunities for students and staff post-Brexit and amid the uncertainty that entails.
Professor Cara Aitchison, President and Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “We are delighted to be making time to celebrate a European success story, particularly at a time of such uncertainty across Europe and between Europe and the wider world.
“Erasmus has been instrumental in building communication and openness to new possibilities, to inter-cultural understanding and co-operation and collaboration between countries.
“Our international links and relationships with British embassies and foreign governments play a key role in developing the UK’s international relations through the soft power of education and cultural diplomacy. And if there was ever a time that the UK needed to develop its international soft power it’s now.”
The First Minister said, “Our White Paper ‘Securing Wales’ Future’ set out the Welsh Government’s response to the challenges of Brexit. This includes our commitment to retain exchanges for EU students and staff to study at UK institutions, and vice versa, when the UK is outside the EU. This should include continued participation in EU programmes such as Erasmus+.
“I would like to congratulate Cardiff Metropolitan University on its success in attracting Erasmus funding over the last 30 years. This is exactly the type of activity the Welsh Government would like to see more of across all institutions in Wales and I would hope to see more Erasmus+ opportunities being taken in the next few years.”