‘Improve your English or forget Erasmus grant’

Spain's Education Minister José Ignacio Wert is to demand higher academic performance and English-language proficiency equivalent to European level B2 from the 10,000 applicants who wish to benefit from government funding for the Erasmus Plus programme.

'Improve your English or forget Erasmus grant'
The new plans have been approved by controversial Education and Culture minister Jose Ignacio Wert. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Montserrat Gomendio, the Secretary of State for Education, Vocational Training and Universities, announced the new measures on Thursday.

As well as passing the stringent academic and English-language tests, students who want Spanish funding in order to take part in the European university exchange scheme will need to have a minimum of 60 credits but will in return qualify for €100 ($136) more than the 30,000 Spanish students who are funded by the EU.

The government department led by controversial minister José Ignacio Wert finances the Erasmus programme in Spain to the tune of €18 million each year, which pays for 10,000 exchange placements. The EU funds the remaining 30,000 placements with a budget of €53.4 million.

Wert recently had to back-track on plans to restrict Erasmus grants to students already studying abroad.

He was also reprimanded by EU officials who described his claims that next year's budgets would be halved by 50% as "rubbish" and "totally false".

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Grandfather, 80, becomes Spain’s oldest Erasmus student

He is 80 years old, has suffered a heart attack and quadruple bypass, but on Monday this Spanish grandfather will head off to start a new semester as an Erasmus student in Italy.

Grandfather, 80, becomes Spain’s oldest Erasmus student
Miguel Castillo being interviewed for Antena 3 Noticias.

Miguel Castillo, who is a father of three and grandfather of six, has leapt into the limelight after it emerged that he had won an Erasmus grant to pursue his studies at a university in Verona.

Years after retiring from a successful career as a notary, the octogenarian chose to resume his studies and enrolled in a history degree at Valencia University.

 “It was a typical retirement,” he said in an interview with the Valencian newspaper Las Provincias. “I looked after the grandchildren, went for walks, played golf, but didn’t do much.”

Then at 75-years-old he suffered a heart attack and was given a quadruple heart bypass.

“On the road to recovery I told myself 'I would like to do something beyond the classic napping’,” he explained.

So he enrolled for a degree in modern history and each day attends classes with students who are a quarter of his age.

READ: Want to know the secret to long life? Live in Spain

On Monday, he joins the hundreds of students who won Erasmus study abroad grants to spend a semester at another university in Europe.

“I opted for Verona, in Italy because I was there 42 years ago to see Maria Callas perform,” said the opera buff.

Unlike other students though, he says he will not be staying in a college dorm.

“My wife is coming with me and we will stay in a hotel for a while and then move into an apartment,” he explained. “My wife says that she doesn’t see us at a pijama party.”

Castillo said he gets on very well with other students who have become his friends and wants to inspire other elderly people not to be limited by their age.

“Don’t lock yourself up at home, open up to the world, because we can contribute so much and can also receive a lot from society,” he said.

READ MORE: Six Spanish secrets on how to live to the age of one hundred