Spain scraps plans to limit Erasmus grants

Spain's Ministry of Education on Tuesday reversed its decision to restrict the number of education grants given to the 40,000 Spanish university students who are currently studying abroad with the Erasmus student exchange scheme.

Spain scraps plans to limit Erasmus grants
Turnaround: Spanish Erasmus students can now expect government funding for the 2013–14 academic year. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Under the plans, Spain would have only provided Erasmus grants to students who had previously received financial aid from the government to study in Spain.

This would have seen many thousands of students who are already studying overseas facing a serious funding shortfall. 

To make matters worse, students only found out about the planned move after the academic semester was well underway. 

"We've been on Erasmus for two months and now they tell us the truth," one Spanish student complained.

"Is it really legal for them to change the law for 2013–14 courses two months after they started? Even after they PROMISED us they would help?" tweeted another under the hashtag #ErasmusRIP, which has been used more than 50,000 times in the past three days.

But Spain's Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert on Tuesday did a policy flip flop on the legislation after mounting pressure from universities, students, Spain's regions and even the leadership of his own party.  

He confirmed that all Erasmus students currently overseas would now receive funding for the 2013–2014 academic year.

Wert had earlier justified a move to restrict such grants by claiming the new legislation would provide more equal opportunities to students in Spain who drop out of university due to a lack of funding.

"We either give €38 ($51) a month to all of them or  €250 to those who really need it," the Education Minister said about the "painful" regulation in a press conference earlier on Tuesday. 

The European Commission had backed Spain’s Ministry of Education on the regulation but criticized Mariano Rajoy’s government for "not informing students at the beginning of the academic year".

"We hope the legitimate expectations of (Spanish) Erasmus students are fulfilled," said EC spokesperson Olivier Bailly in reference to what the young Spaniards themselves were referring to as the Education Ministry’s “broken promises".

Now that appears to be the case, with Spain's Education Minister saying a special meeting will be held to establish how funding for the country's current crop of Erasmus students can be secured for the academic year.

The Erasmus Programme is an EU student exchange programme which has given millions of young Europeans the chance to live and study in another member state since it was established in 1987. 

According to EU figures, Spain is the leading destination for the Erasmus exchange scheme and is also the country that sends most students abroad.

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Five things to know about the ‘best university in Spain’

A new prestigious global university rankings has included several Spanish institutes albeit well down the list. Here's what you need to know about the university that finsihed the highest in the rankings.

Five things to know about the 'best university in Spain'
Photo: Jesús Corrius/Flickr
The QS World University Rankings, one of the big three most-read top schools lists, has just been released, and it includes 27 Spanish universities amongst the world’s top thousand.
While no Spanish school ranked in the top 100, university administrators argue that they’re doing more with less – Spanish schools have about €6,000 in funding per student/per year, a fraction of the €100,000 or so spent on each student per year at the American universities at the top of the list. 
The top Spanish school was declared to be the Universitat de Barcelona, ranked 165th globally. Here are 5 things worth knowing about the university declared by QS to be the best in Spain:
A university with tradition
The Universitat de Barcelona was listed as one of the 25 best universities in the world with more than 400 years of history by QS. The school was founded back in 1450 by King Alfonso V (“the Magnanimous”) of Aragon, making it 569 years old.
While it’s not as old as Spain’s historic University of Salamanca, founded in 1134, it is ranked almost 500 spots higher in the QS World University Rankings.
Photo: Jordi Domènech/Wikimedia Commons
One of the biggest universities in Spain
With more than 46,000 full-time students and around 63,000 students all categories included, the Universitat de Barcelona has one of the largest student bodies in Spain. 
It is the fourth largest university in Spain in terms of full-time students, after the University of Seville, the Complutense in Madrid, and the University of Granada.
Strong points: academic reputation and graduate employability
One of the factors that contributed to the Universitat de Barcelona’s “best in Spain” was its good academic reputation, rated at 71 out of 100 by QS. Academic reputation is the most heavily-weighted component in the QS World University rankings, and is judged by it surveying the opinions of over 94,000 individuals in the field of higher education with regards to an institution’s teaching and research quality.
Another factor that helped the Universitat de Barcelona distinguish itself was the high employability of its graduates. There, they cracked the top 100, ranking 82nd globally, making them the most employable university graduates in Spain, a quality that demonstrates itself with 90% graduate employment rate.
Weakness: a lack of international faculty
If there’s one category the Universitat of Barcelona could improve in, it’s international faculty. QS values an international faculty as the mark of a strong international brand and a global outlook, and incorporates into its ranking system.
The Universitat de Barcelona was graded an abysmal 5.8 out of 100 on this metric, probably because only 134 of its 3,923 faculty members are from outside of Spain. That’s a 3.4% international faculty for a student body made up of 15% international students from at least 122 different countries. 
Looks like that scene in L’Auberge Espagnole where the professor refuses to teach in any language but Catalan might have contained a grain of truth in it…
An affordable education
Unlike the schools at the top of the international list, the Universitat de Barcelona provides a reasonably-priced education, charging domestic students around €1,750 to €3,500 per school year. International students are charged a little bit more, as undergraduates pay €7,000 – €9,000 per year and graduate students are charged €3,500 – €5,500 per year.
Compared to the €42,500 – €44,500 per year that top ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can expect to pay, that doesn’t sound to bad.