Ever since 1987, hundreds of thousands of students have travelled internationally as part of the Erasmus+ Programme. It's a chance for them to learn new skills, expand their horizons and mingle with other students in countries across Europe and beyond. Over 75% of people who took part in the exchange programme in 2018/19 travelled by plane.
“Erasmus by Train” (like Interrail) enables students to use more environmentally-friendly methods of transport to reach their exchange destinations, without having to worry about the cost. The idea started in 2019 with a group of German university students who were travelling to a summer academy in the UK. Now, it has more than 25 members in countries across Europe. When the new programme was published, media, politicians and public bodies applauded it for its focus on sustainability but Erasmus by Train isn’t just promoting this element. A spokesperson for the group said that the proposed strategies to increase the programme’s green credentials remain vague in their formulation!
Until recently, there was no incentive for students on the programme to travel sustainably but the European Parliament is now calling for Erasmus+ students to choose the least polluting form of transport. As part of the 2021-2027 Programme Guide, there is now some help for students looking to travel by train or other less polluting options.
As far as Erasmus by Train is concerned, the new system pays a single contribution as a top-up amount to students choosing a more sustainable method of transport. Currently, this is €50 along with up to four days of additional individual support; the group worries this is not enough to cover the full price difference between train and a cheap flight.
Erasmus by Train says there needs to be a financial incentive for students to choose sustainable transport. They believe that providing Interrail passes for all Erasmus participants to and from the location of their exchange is part of the answer.
They also say it would be good for the EU to make it mandatory for higher education institutes to provide information about sustainability in the documents they give to students.
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The Benefits of Studying and Working Abroad with the Turing Scheme
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