By Claire West

Thousands of UK students will be helped to study overseas thanks to the new EU programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport, Universities Minister David Willetts announced yesterday.

The 2014-20 Erasmus+ programme is designed to double the number of people in the EU benefiting from opportunities abroad.

Funded by the European Commission, and bringing together a number of existing EU programmes, Erasmus+ is worth an estimated £793 million (€940 million) to the UK. It will increase opportunities for international study, teaching and volunteering in Europe and beyond.

Speaking at the Sutton Trust’s International Summit today, David Willetts announced the contract to deliver Erasmus+ in the UK had been awarded to the British Council, in partnership with Ecorys UK.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“At present, very few British students study abroad. For every 15 foreign students studying in the UK, there is just one UK student studying abroad.

“In an increasingly global economy, this means we are missing out on vital skills, which is why we are encouraging our young people to study overseas as part of our International Education Strategy.

“Erasmus+ will give more young people from the UK the opportunity to experience new cultures, understand different ways of working, develop crucial language skills and give them a global outlook.”

The programme, which officially starts on 1 January 2014, will provide £11.8 billion (€14 billion) across the 33 participating countries. Across Europe more than five million people will benefit over the next seven years.

Ruth Sinclair-Jones, Head of EU Programmes and National Agency Director at the British Council, said:

“We are delighted to be working with our long-standing National Agency partners Ecorys UK to deliver Erasmus+. The programme represents a fantastic opportunity for UK participants, especially young people, to gain the valuable experience and skills that will help them prosper in today’s challenging economic climate.”

Chris Walker, National Agency Director at Ecorys UK, said:

“We look forward to continuing to support UK organisations in securing funding that can have a real impact on the skills and employability of participants. We would strongly encourage organisations to make the most of the opportunities available under Erasmus+.”

Erasmus+ brings together a number of existing EU programmes including the Ecorys-managed Grundtvig, Leonardo and Transversal programmes and the British Council-managed Comenius, eTwinning, Erasmus and Youth in Action programmes. The Erasmus+ programme is expected to be approved by the European Parliament on 19 November 2013.