Irish student praises new Erasmus+ programme

Wednesday 11 December 2013 16.24
Irish student Laura Hegarty (centre) is pictured with European Parliament President Martin Schulz (Pic: Paul Cunningham)
Irish student Laura Hegarty (centre) is pictured with European Parliament President Martin Schulz (Pic: Paul Cunningham)

Irish student Laura Hegarty has attended a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg where a €14 billion fund to help young people to study in other EU countries was signed into law.

The Erasmus+ programme is focused on students, teachers, trainers and apprentices. Youth leaders, volunteers and young sportsmen and women will also now be eligible.

Ms Hegarty has taken Law and French at Trinity College Dublin, but under the Erasmus scheme she is now studying Political Science in Strasbourg.

She told RTÉ News: "The benefit of Erasmus has been huge to me. I've participated in the World Democracy Forum in the Council of Europe.

"I come into the European Parliament with MEP Mairead McGuinness most months and I've learnt so much French and met so many people. I can't recommend Erasmus enough."

Ms Hegarty said she was particularly happy that Erasmus+ would give additional help to Masters students.

Under the scheme, a new guarantee mechanism will enable Masters degree students to get cheaper loans to study abroad, ranging from €12,000 for a one-year degree to €18,000 for two years.

She said: "It's such an amazing opportunity I'm just delighted that others will get the chance to do it as well."

Ms Hegarty had the option to study in Paris or Bordeaux, but chose Strasbourg instead.

She said: "I decided on Strasbourg because of the EU institutions. I hoped I would be able to get something out of that. And I have. It's been amazing."

With a total budget of about €14.7 billion, Erasmus+ will help young people aged 13 to 30 to study abroad.

The parliament stressed that the mechanism must not replace any existing national grant system or prevent the creation of lending mechanisms at national level.

It was voted through by MEPs last month by 632 votes to 29, with 30 abstentions.

It was signed into law today by the parliament's President Martin Schulz, with eight Erasmus students looking on, including Ms Hegarty.