O'Reilly urges school leavers to look at EU options

Tells Erasmus+ launch many are unaware of ‘bounty on our doorsteps’

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has encouraged Irish school-leavers to consider studying in EU countries other than Ireland given the constraints of the higher education system here.
 Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The
Irish
Times

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has encouraged Irish school-leavers to consider studying in EU countries other than Ireland given the constraints of the higher education system here. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Tue, May 13, 2014, 01:10

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has encouraged Irish school leavers to consider studying in EU countries other than Ireland given the constraints of the higher education system here.

Speaking at the launch of the latest round of the Erasmus+ programme in Ireland in Dublin today, she relayed her son’s experience of finding a college place in the Netherlands after failing to achieve his first choice college at home under the CAO.

She said it prompted her to do further research into the area and she discovered there were many courses taught through English across the EU. In Scandinavia they were often free, while in other countries the level of fees were lower than the student contribution charge in Ireland.

‘On our doorstep’
In comments which may irk some Irish universities, she said school-leavers should make themselves aware of this “bounty on our doorstep”, emphasising the benefits of studying in Europe.

Ms O’Reilly was speaking at the announcement at Dublin Castle of a newly-designed Erasmus+ scheme which seeks to boost the number of Irish participants.

Established in 1987, Erasmus+, now branded Erasmus+, involves students exchanges or internships of at least three months duration.

Over the next seven years, €169 million is being allocated under the EU programme to support projects in adult education, higher education, youth work and related fields.

As a successor to lifelong learning and Youth in Action programmes, it draws together multiple previous European schemes into one.

Speaking to over 200 stakeholders and policy-makers at Dublin Castle, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said: “The days of apartheid and compartmentalisation in education are over. We now have a joined up system of education and training, ending the previous divide.”

Happy narratives
Ms O’Reilly highlighted the contribution of the EU to liberating and enabling Irish women during the 1970s, and underlined the challenge now facing the EU of “creating similar happy narratives for the young people of Europe”.

She said she was addressing the audience not only as an office-holder but also as a parent, noting her eldest child had benefited from an Erasmus programme in northern Sweden. The programmes encapsulates a value of solidarity “and creates more rounded, globalised graduates and jobseekers”.