SPHERE has been tasked by the European Commission and the Executive Agency (EACEA) to investigate the extent to which ‘disadvantaged students’ in Partner countries (Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Southern Mediterranean) are encouraged to benefit from mobility opportunities. The study focuses on International Credit Mobility (ICM) in Erasmus+.
It is obvious that legal structures and cultural practices vary considerably and that these affect perceptions of disadvantage. At the same time, Partner country institutions participating in Erasmus+ make specific commitments when they sign the Inter-Institutional Agreement. They agree to give disadvantaged students equal opportunities and to respect the principle of non-discrimination.
The Erasmus+ Programme Guide (2019, p.10) gives a wide definition of disadvantage. It embraces physical disability, learning difficulties, as well as particular medical, socio-economic, cultural and geographic factors.
But the variation of the relevance and applicability of these definitions in the Partner countries is unmapped. It has been found that the existing understanding is mainly anecdotal. Hence the ICM and Inclusion Study has been commissioned to further investigate concept and practice when it comes to inclusion and student mobility.
The study is organised in two phases. Phase One (February through June 2019) has consisted of a review of the three most recent years of NEO monitoring reports, a survey of NEOs with follow-up interviews (15), together with interviews with selected HERE (11) and with staff in International Relations Offices in the participating institutions (18). A draft interim report is in preparation. It will probably feature in the programme of the October study visit for HERE, details of which will be announced soon.
Phase Two will follow in the autumn. It will consist of a survey of students and interviews with a selection of National Agencies and host institutions in the programme countries. A final report, with recommendations, will be drafted in time for the annual HERE conference in December.
SPHERE takes the opportunity of thanking all those – NEOs, HEREs and IROs – who have generously given their views and their time.
-Howard Davies, SPHERE Team, June 24 2019