The Erasmus generation

Today I had the pleasure of speaking to students at a school in York about how the EU works, what the key issues facing our continent are, and how we can best tackle such issues.

Naturally, the talk with the students gravitated toward the looming referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU. And it’s right that it did — this referendum is not like a general election, where we can change direction in five years’ time. It will have lasting consequences for all the students I spoke to today. (Indeed, this was the rationale behind lowering the voting age for the referendum, as in Scotland — but in the end the Conservative government denied the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds.)

Young people, like all Brits, benefit greatly from EU membership — from peace and prosperity, to workers’ rights, to environmental and consumer protections. But young people are also much more likely to take advantage of the ability to freely move in the EU, to study or work in another country.

In fact, in 2014, almost 15,600 UK students spent up to a year studying in another European country, up 115% since 2007. This is in large part thanks to the Erasmus scheme – an EU programme that supports higher education students to study abroad. (The initiative also has programmes for staff, teachers, lecturers and support staff to gain professional development through teaching or training abroad.)

What is less well known, though, is that the Erasmus programmes actually extend well beyond the boundaries of academic education. For example, the EU now offers programmes for young people to gain valuable international work experience in a European organisation, for apprentices in vocational education to taking part in a traineeship abroad, and for young people and those working in the youth sector to take part in a youth exchange or a volunteering scheme. Erasmus even has a Young Entrepreneurs scheme which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced businesspeople who run small businesses in other countries, on how to cooperate with foreign partners or learn about new markets.

With all these opportunities (and more) for young people at risk if we leave the EU, it’s no wonder that the younger generations are overwhelming in favour of remaining a member of the European Union (according to polls, 64% of under 25s and 70% of university students say that they want to stay in).

That’s why today I concluded my talk with students in York asking them to raise their voices in the coming months on where they see Britain’s place in the world, so that they can continue to enjoy programmes like Erasmus. We simply cannot miss out on this opportunity to have so many young voices heard and actively engaged in such an important debate — and I’m pleased to see organisations like Universities UK and Students for Europe are already working hard to harness this energy and help such voices be heard.

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  1. No,You are wrong.Do you not believe “We are good enough’ to govern our own country?. We need to control our own borders and then we can decide who (world wide) to invite, people with skills required for employment shortages and with out criminal records and have medical insurance.

  2. Richard,

    Excellent .

    Since so many young are pro EU, other campaigning points are needed.

    Surely a major issue is how Tory and UKIP MEPs voted repeatedly against EU plans to make international business like Amazon, Google,
    Apple and Facebook pay tax in the different countries where profits are made?
    When they say they want UK to run its own affairs, they mean they want us to be dominated by big business tax dodgers.
    All the best , bob Holland

  3. As someone aged 60 and retired I think that it’s more important that young people aged 16+ have a vote in the European referendum than I do – after all they will have to live with the consequences longer. Young peoples vote will be more rational as it will be based on the Europe they experience today rather than the one I experienced in 1973

  4. Teenagers are the future, they should have a vote as it is their future,the government denies them a say in what will happen to the UK after the referendum. THE Government knows that the young are aware of all the corruption and to give them a vote would be the beginning of the end to get rid of this despicable shower of charlatans.

  5. This from an MEP who faithfully types age-old platitudes like ‘But it is in any case in Britain’s vital interest to stay at the heart of the EU.’

    The same was said by Irish politicians when Ireland had its last referendum on the EU’s Constitution, errr sorry Lisbon Treaty. The Constitution that we’re supposed to pretend isn’t a Constitution, even though more than 90% of it is *precisely* the same as the Constition.

    Ireland must remain at the heart of the EU, they said. It’s a very crowded heart, isn’t it? Only France and Germany are at the heart of the EU. It’s a France-Germany union. It was designed that way. No-one else is at its heart.

    As for the student programme, this is participated in by numerous countries that aren’t part of the EU. I bet you didn’t bother to tell the students that, did you?

    You’re promoting cheap soundbites. You probably tell people that the EU brought roaming charges for mobile phones down – it’s a falsehood often trotted out, including by David Cameron in the other week’s Parliament PMQs. Lying in the House of Commons, whoda thunk it!

    “With all these opportunities (and more) for young people at risk if we leave the EU, it’s no wonder that the younger generations are overwhelming in favour of remaining a member of the European Union (according to polls, 64% of under 25s and 70% of university students say that they want to stay in).”

    Either you’re misinformed or you’re lying. Tell kids the truth, or stop taking public money.

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