BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - The European Union has announced plans to expand its 'Erasmus' study-abroad programme in Latin America, giving thousands of students and academics an opportunity to trade places for up to three years.
From this year, the EU will offer 25,000 two-year grants, 15,000 three-year scholarships and thousands more short-term grants to students and academics worldwide, with those in Latin America now eligible for all the places on offer.
Launched in 1987, Erasmus began as a pan-Europe student-exchange programme. It has since expanded beyond the borders of Europe, and last year the EU agreed to increase its budget, setting aside 14.7 billion euros for an expanded Erasmus+ programme for 2014-2020.
Latin America has always had slots in the programme, and over the past decade has sent more than 8,000 students and staff in exchanges with European institutions. The expansion means Latin Americans will now be able to apply for all of the 40,000 or more grants and scholarships available each year.
"Erasmus+ is proof of Europe's commitment to strengthening academic cooperation with Latin America," said Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner for education and culture, said in a statement on Friday.
"As well as providing more individual grants for students from Latin America wishing to study in the EU, we will also provide more support to increase the international reach of universities on both sides of the Atlantic."
Vassiliou will formally announce the plans - and wider educational and cultural initiatives with the region - at a higher education congress in Havana, Cuba, from February 10-14.
Since Erasmus was launched in 1987, it has allowed more than 3 million young Europeans to study abroad or train in another country, making it one of the EU's most successful programmes for integration and cultural exchange.
(Editing by Luke Baker/Larry King)