University of Edinburgh students on an Erasmus exchange will receive funding on time even if payments from the British Council are delayed, the university has guaranteed.
This was announced after Erasmus students at the University of Edinburgh faced disruptions to their study abroad plans last year due to a delay in payment of Erasmus grants from the British Council.
All Erasmus students are entitled to an Erasmus grant, issued in two instalments; the first covering 80 per cent, the second 20 per cent.
Last year, students should have received the second instalment of approximately £600, dependant on destination, in June.
However, in April the university informed students that payment could no longer be guaranteed due to a shortfall in British Council funding.
Elizabeth Taylor, a former Erasmus student in Berlin, told The Student: “I sent countless unanswered emails, called the international office many times with no answer and when I eventually did get through they weren’t very helpful.
“I felt as though we were not receiving the correct info or useful info at that.”
Students were told that further information would be unavailable until late May, after many programs had already ended.
Payment was not received until late August, and in some cases as late as September 18. This caused great financial stress to students, some of whom were forced to borrow from friends and family and rely on overdrafts and credit cards to cover costs.
Ben Podziewksi, a former Erasmus student who studied in Warsaw, told The Student: “This stress certainly had some impact on my studying and motivation, not to mention my general happiness during this period.
“If anyone wants to know why, I suggest that they go to the administration of a dormitory in Poland, or any of Europe for that matter, and explain that they cannot pay their rent due to a shortfall in British Council Funding.”
A spokesperson for the British Council told The Student: “In 2013/14 we saw a record level of requests for funding from students who wanted to go on Erasmus.
“We were determined that all students eligible for funding should be able to go on Erasmus, so we negotiated with the UK Government for the extra support necessary to allow that to happen – but the negotiations meant we couldn’t issue the funding as early as we normally do.
“Edinburgh University received their Grant Agreement in June and their funding at the end of July. It is then a matter for Edinburgh as to when they made payments to their students.”
Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) president Briana Pegado told The Student: “The situation this past year was atrocious and unacceptable. No student should be living abroad in fear that they will not receive their funding.
“It is the university’s responsibility to guarantee funding for its students in the event of any delay.”
To ensure that this does not happen again, EUSA worked closely with the university to guarantee that this year students will receive their grants in full by November 5, whether or not the British Council secure funding.
Speaking to The Student, Alan Mackie, director of the International Office, said: “The new guaranteed payment dates established by the University of Edinburgh will ensure that our Erasmus students experience no future delays in their grant payments.”
Pegado told The Student: “We think this is the right step moving forward for our students.”