The Ministry of Education: Study Abroad Becomes More Affordable for Low-income Categories of Students
Annually about 2% of all students obtain a possibility to travel abroad under the international Erasmus exchange program. The Ministry of Education wishes to at least double this number in a couple of years. However, students note that receiving the material support from Slovenia or the EU does not make it possible to secure themselves financially in sufficient volume.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport wishes that the higher education system of Slovenia would have a wider international context. For this purpose, 57 million euros should be allocated approximately until 2018, which first involves the promotion of mobility and research work at the international level as well as advertising of higher education.
More mobility among students
The mobility of students is one of the key priorities of the Strategy and the Bologna process as a whole. A percentage of Slovenian youth traveling abroad on exchange programs is still one of the lowest in the EU. However, their number is gradually increasing. Seven years ago, a little over 1% of all students went abroad. However, this figure was already 3.3% in the previous academic year. A few years ago, the member countries of the Bologna process, including Slovenia, promised to ensure a 20-percent student mobility until 2020. The new Strategy states that this figure will be 5% until 2018.
An Erasmus exchange program is the most common form of mobility among Slovenian students. According to the study conducted by Evroštudent, about 18% of students would gladly go abroad to study, but due to financial difficulties, they abandon this decision.
Students can afford only a dormitory room
“As part of training under an exchange program in the Netherlands, where I’m going at the end of this week, I will receive a monthly maintenance allowance of 430 euros that is just enough to pay for a room in a student’s dormitory, which is the cheapest form of accommodation in this country,” Kate, a law student, says. Tanya, who last year spent some time studying in Sweden, had a similar experience. “I received a scholarship in the amount of 480 euros per month, which was enough only to pay for a dormitory room, but other than that, I had to spend almost 500 euros more each month,” she says and adds that a part of that sum she saved herself and the rest she received from her parents.
The choice of the destination country, as statistics shows, depends not only on the host status—a university and the quality of its educational programs, but also on the standards of life in such country that are affordable for students. Nina is one of the students who participated in the last year’s exchange programs in Montenegro and Greece. “I even managed to save some money in Montenegro due to slight efforts and a little bit of economizing talent,” she says and adds that she later spent the saved money on an exchange program in Greece.
Assistance to socially vulnerable and low-income students
The relevant ministry wants that the exchange programs would involve more students from the socially vulnerable categories. Currently there are 13% of such students. In addition to the Erasmus+ scholarship, they also receive an extra levy. In past years, it was between 100 and 150 euros per month, and in the nearest 2016/2017 academic year, it will be 270 euros.
“Today, only wealthy students can actually afford such form of education. It is proved that the international experience, living abroad and mobility increase employment opportunities, but today not everyone can afford it,” Tea Jarc said.
Erasmus scholarships will be increased
The Ministry of Education, Science and Sports headed by Maja Makovec Brenčič claims that next year a 20-percent increase in the funds allocated to the Erasmus+ program for learning mobility in higher education is expected. In numbers, this means 1 million euros more funds than at present, and a further increase in the amount of allocated funds is expected for 2018.