For the next academic year, the Ministry of Education will no longer top up the Erasmus European exchange program grants provided by Brussels, but rather will offer 10,000 students its own grants, which will have more stringent academic requirements.
To qualify, students will need an exceptional academic record – the exact grade has not yet been announced – and also be able to demonstrate upper intermediate level (B2) knowledge of the language of the country in which they will be taking classes.
Students are supposed to have acquired an intermediate (B1) level by the end of high school, meaning that the government is taking it as given that they will have improved since then.
In exchange for meeting these requirements, students will receive a 350-euro monthly grant – 100 euros more than the average Brussels grant. Those unable to obtain a ministry grant – the lower-achieving students – will automatically be able to opt for a European grant of either 200 or 300 euros (depending on the destination country).
In four months you can’t become fluent in a language”
Until now, Europe has recommended that students going abroad have at least a B1 level of the language in which they will be studying, though in practice many universities do not take this into account. That said, some foreign universities do demand a B2 level, to ensure that students are able to follow classes.
The chance to learn a language is one of the main reasons that prompts students to head abroad. “In four months you can’t become fluent in a language,” says the president of Santiago University, Juan Casares, lamenting the fact that the duration of Erasmus stays is also due to decrease this year.
After high school, students are able to go on taking language classes at university, but these are not free and not all are eligible for grants. Another public option is to take classes at one of the official state language schools, though prices for these have shot up considerably in many regions in recent times.