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President von der Leyen receives Empress Theophano Prize for the Erasmus programme

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On 7 October, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) accepted the Empress Theophano Prize, awarded to the Erasmus programme, during a ceremony held at the Rotunda Monument in Thessaloniki, Greece, which she attended via videoconference. The Prize rewards individuals or organisations who make an outstanding contribution to deepening European cooperation and improving the understanding of the diverse historic interdependencies in Europe.

Upon receiving the Prize, the president said she was honoured to receive the Prize “for the ten million Europeans who have taken part in the Erasmus programme since its inception” and dedicated it “to the students, the teachers, the dreamers who have made this European miracle come true”.

In her acceptance speech, President von der Leyen also drew parallels between the European recovery plan and Erasmus+: “Just as Erasmus was then, NextGenerationEU is now. It is a program of unprecedented scale and scope. And it can become the next great unifying project for our Union. We are investing together not only in a collective recovery, but also in our common future. Solidarity, trust and unity have to be built and rebuilt time and time again. I do not know whether NextGenerationEU can change Europe as profoundly as the Erasmus programme did. But I know that once again Europe has chosen to master and shape its future - together.”

Read the President's full speech online in English or French, and watch it back here. More than 4 million people will have had the opportunity to study, train, and gain experience abroad between 2014 and 2020 thanks to the Erasmus+ programme. Learn more about Erasmus here

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#Coronavirus - British universities should not reopen in September, says union

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British universities should scrap plans to reopen in September to prevent travelling students from fuelling the country’s coronavirus pandemic, a union said, calling for courses to be taught online. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has come under fire over its moves to restart education, especially after a row over exam results for school students and a failed attempt to bring all pupils back to their classes earlier this year, writes Elizabeth Piper.

Johnson has been calling on Britons to return to something more akin to normality after the coronavirus lockdown, calling on workers to return to offices to help the economy recover from a 20% contraction in the April-June period.

But the University and College Union (UCU) said it was too early to send students back to universities, warning they could be blamed if cases of COVID-19 increased. “Moving a million plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave,” UCU general secretary Jo Grady said in a statement. “It is time for the government to finally take some decisive and responsible action in this crisis and tell universities to abandon plans for face-to-face teaching,” she said, urging the government to move all teaching online for the first term.

Stephen Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury (finance ministry), said he did not agree with the argument. “I think universities like the rest of the economy need to come back and students need to be able to do so,” he told Times Radio. Several universities say they are ready to reopen next month after weeks of preparation and some students say they have already spent money on such things as housing in preparation for the new term.

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#Coronavirus - #Erasmus+ mobilized for a strong response to the pandemic

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The Commission has adopted a revision of the Erasmus+ 2020 Annual Work Programme, providing an additional €200 million to boost digital education and training and promote skills development and inclusion through creativity and the arts. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive impact on education and training, with new ways of teaching and learning requiring innovative, creative and inclusive solutions.

Promoting the European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “The European Education Area needs to foster digital education and skills to mitigate disruptions caused by the pandemic and to support Europe's role in the digital transition. The Commission will publish extraordinary Erasmus+ calls of €200 million that will offer more opportunities to learn, teach and share in the digital era. Effective, innovative and inclusive solutions to improve digital education and skills do exist and will benefit from European support.”

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “I am delighted that the Erasmus+ programme is being mobilised to support key actors in education, training and youth in these challenging times. €200 million will be available to support digital education and training, digital youth work, but also creative skills and social inclusion. It is an important step, paving the way for the Digital Education Action Plan, which the Commission will launch this autumn.”

The Erasmus+ programme will support projects to enhance digital teaching, learning and assessment in schools, higher education and vocational training. It will also provide opportunities for schools, youth organisations and adult learning institutions to support skills development, to boost creativity and to enhance social inclusion through the arts, together with the cultural and creative sectors. Calls for proposals for projects in these areas will be published in the coming weeks. Interested organisations should get in touch with their Erasmus+ National Agency

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#Scotland axes downgraded exam grades in prelude to possible UK problems

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Scottish students will have downgraded examination results used to secure university places raised back to original levels set by teachers, as Edinburgh faces anger at a problem caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which could also play out in England. With almost no examinations taking place, teachers graded pupils in key subjects and the marks were then moderated by examination boards. To the dismay of pupils and parents, 75,000 young people saw their grades revised down, writes Costas Pitas.

Similar issues could begin to emerge on Thursday (13 August) when students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A level results, on which many university places are based. “All downgraded awards will be withdrawn,” said Scotland’s education minister John Swinney. “In exceptional times, truly difficult decisions have to be made. It is deeply regrettable that we got this wrong and I am sorry for that.”

While England and Scotland operate different systems, both saw schools shut for most pupils from March, forcing the cancellation of many examinations and prompting special procedures to be implemented. The regulator in England, Ofqual, has said it will weigh up a number of factors as it issues marks later this week, including ensuring that the grades allow pupils to fairly compete with previous and future cohorts.

“We have put in place special arrangements for this summer to make sure that the vast majority of students will receive calculated grades, so they can progress to further study or employment as expected,” it said in late July.

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