International update with Prof Helen Higson: June 2010

Professor Helen Higson talks to Aspects about the Erasmus scheme

In her column this month, Professor Helen Higson talks to Aspects about the Erasmus study and work abroad scheme, what it involves and how it could benefit you.

The history of Erasmus dates back to 1987 when Erasmus - a European Commission programme for HE/FE students, teachers and institutions - was introduced. The aim was to increase student mobility within Europe. In 1995 Erasmus was incorporated into the Socrates programme which supported the European dimension in education from school, to university, and through adult life. This ended in 2006 and Erasmus now falls under the EU Lifelong Learning Programme which will run until 2013.

Helen explains that there are a number of ways that Aston University is involved with the Erasmus programme.

If you are a member of teaching or support staff, Erasmus can offer education and training opportunities. You can gain first-hand experience of another country, its educational system and its culture by teaching or working in another EU country for a week. Whilst you are there you will be able to discover new ideas and best practices to take back with you and adopt in your work at Aston. All of your travel and subsistence is paid for through the scheme. “This is a great opportunity to be able to offer staff and also to build and strengthen links with other EU institutions” said Helen. In the 2009/10 academic year, a total of 16 staff have spent time in European Institutions through the Erasmus scheme (14 academic staff and two support staff).   

Helen commented, ‘Through Erasmus I spent time in both Holland and Belgium and visited two universities and two business schools whilst there. It gave me the opportunity to meet and talk to those who work in the same role as me in those organisations and to share examples of good practice with them. This was a fantastic experience and meant that I came back brimming with new ideas and improvements for Aston University. Although the scheme has been well used by academics to establish research links with other institutions, it has been less widely used by support staff and I’m keen to emphasise that any member of support staff is eligible for and can benefit from the Erasmus scheme.‘

If you would like to see how your equivalent role works in another institution, please get in touch with Peter Lakeland on ext 4605 to see how Erasmus could work for you.

The Erasmus scheme is also open to students, Students can apply to spend 3 - 12 months of their course as a study exchange student at a partner university in Europe (view the list of Aston's partners) or as spend time as a work placement student. Approximately 40 Aston students participate in an Erasmus study exchange each year, mostly during their third year. There are also currently 112 students on a work placement year through the Erasmus scheme. “Erasmus students see huge benefits” said Helen. “Erasmus provides an opportunity to improve language skills, boosts confidence, provides experience of a different culture and the students make lots of new friends. Perhaps most importantly, it is wonderful for these students’ CVs and will certainly enhance their employability.”

Words by Louise Russell

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