Erasmus and Grant Issue

The Erasmus Student mobility 2021-2022 started last September. Students from many universities in Turkey have already traveled to Europe to study or do internships in various European countries. However, they encountered a situation they did not expect.

For those who are not familiar with the situation, Erasmus is a student exchange program funded by the European Union. Within the scope of this program, many of our young people who go to Europe are able to live there with the financial support we call grants. In fact, it is only possible for a child from a lower-middle-income family to go abroad with this support. In general, the grant is enough for a student’s basic expenses such as accommodation, food, communication and transportation. In the past, students used to receive this grant and go abroad without participating in a study mobility program. This year there has been a change in this situation.

Before explaining the reason for the change, it is useful to look at the current situation. Before going abroad, students signed a grant agreement with their school. Every young person who will receive a grant under Erasmus mobility has to sign this contract. The grant contract specifies how long and how many Euros they will receive support. Unlike other years, this year the students were informed by their schools that their grants might be paid a little later. They were told that it would take until mid-November for the support, which is normally deposited around October, to be delivered to the students. However, it did not happen as they said. Although it was mid-November, many students did not receive the support.

On social media, this issue was brought to the agenda with an email sent by ITU to its students. When ITU stated that it would pay its students for 2.5 months, no matter how long they had been gone, it faced the justified reaction of its students. How long a school will pay its students is specified in the grant agreement in terms of duration and amount. Although ITU claims that its students are aware of the situation, many students we spoke to stated that they signed the grant agreement for 4.5 months or more. It is not very difficult to determine this, one copy of the grant agreement is kept at the school and the other is given to the student. In other words, ITU knows which student has signed a contract for how long, and paying for 2.5 months causes an unbearable financial burden for many students. Students who do their study mobility for 1 semester have to stay abroad for at least 5 months, and those who do it for 2 semesters have to stay abroad for at least 10 months. For this reason, they have already signed contracts with their dormitories and landlords, traveled to their destination countries and borrowed money in many places in the country they are going to. The savings of many lower-middle-income students, who had adjusted their budgets accordingly, melted away. While some of them are going back, others are planning to work illegally in the countries they are going to. The 2.5-month grant problem is essentially unique to ITU. While the number of students who can be sent abroad has not yet been finalized in the agreement with the Turkish National Agency, ITU has taken the initiative to include more students in the study mobility program. ITU is forced to do this at some point because the signing of the relevant agreement has been delayed for quite some time. It is precisely this delay that is the problem.

Contrary to popular belief, the grant issue raised by an e-mail at ITU is now more of a student problem, as other universities are also experiencing problems with the process of depositing grants.

Following the incidents at ITU, the National Agency, which is responsible for the distribution of grants in Turkey, made a statement on September 29. However, the statement did not give any information about when students will be able to access their grants.

So What Caused This Delay?

According to the National Agency, the agreement on Turkey’s participation in EU programs was signed on 27 October 2021. Following the signing of the agreement, there are a number of bureaucratic procedures to be carried out. No date has been announced as to when these procedures will be finalized and when the grant support will be received. There are two main reasons why the agreements were signed so late. One is the disruption of the process due to Covid-19, the second and more important one is that this year is a transition year. In transition years, Erasmus grant amounts and total budgets of countries are determined for the next 6 years. In other words, the plan and agreement for the 2021-2027 Erasmus student mobility program is made during this year. This has caused the text of the agreement and the negotiations to be more comprehensive and the process to be inevitably delayed.

Our question to the European Commission was answered on November 19, 2021. They stated that they are aware of the situation and that they are in contact with the National Agency on this issue, but that the national agency is fully responsible for all operations, including the distribution and timing of grants. We were advised to liaise with the Turkish national agency on this issue. It was confirmed that due to the fact that we are in a transition year and we are not an EU member state, there were difficulties in transferring the grants and the agreement was only signed on October 27, 2021. The Commission also stated that they are working hard to get the money to these countries by the end of the year.

There are two main conclusions we can draw from all this information: firstly, the transfer of the grants to the National Agency has been delayed for various reasons and has not yet taken place, and secondly, in the best case, the grants will be in the students’ accounts at the end of the year. This means that a student benefiting from the Erasmus program during the winter semester will only have access to the money they had planned a month before the end of their study mobility.

Erasmus is the most valuable opportunity for lower-middle-income students without any capital to see abroad. The fact that the grants are not shared with the young people when they will be paid and that the National Agency does not take any initiative in this regard has led to some young people returning to Turkey, whose backs are bent every day due to the exchange rate, while others cannot focus on their education and development in this process.

What did the Universities do?

As far as we know, Galatasaray University and Bahçeşehir University paid their students the full grant from their own resources, while ITU paid only 2.5 months. It is known that some universities do not pay at all and leave young people to their fate in the countries they go to.

What should have happened?

The Erasmus grant amount is an amount that an individual student’s budget cannot afford. However, the grant amount that all students currently on mobility will need is a burden that the state can bear when the state budget is taken into consideration. We make a small calculation:

  • The number of Erasmus students from Turkey in 2017 was 15,000. Let’s imagine that this number almost doubles by 2021. Let 25,000 people benefit from this program for 2021.
  • Less than half of these students prefer to benefit from the Erasmus Program in the winter. A considerable number of them participate in student mobility in summer. A significant number of them come for a one or two month internship experience. Let’s assume the worst case scenario and say that half of this number participates in study mobility in winter, since we still do not have data. 12,500 students had to be paid by September 2021.
  • The students are divided into the first group and the second group. The first group of students who go to the more expensive countries will be paid 2100 Euros in the first phase, while the second group of students will be paid 1600 Euros. Let’s assume that all students go to the most expensive countries.
  • As of September 1st, when students start their mobility, the Euro exchange rate is 9.82 TL.
  • If the National Agency had taken the initiative in September, at worst it could have allocated 236 million liras to ensure that young people could participate in this mobility without financial problems. While this is the 25-day expenditure of the presidential palace, it is only 16 percent of the Religious Affairs Department’s budget.

Universities try to allocate a budget from their own resources and send it to their students, but it is unclear how much state universities in particular are able to support their students when they are clearly experiencing financial difficulties. The economic situation in the country is so fragile

Scroll to top
Skip to content