Most probably you were already in situation where you had to pay the participation fee to take part in Erasmus+ project, in your home country or abroad. Even if you didn't, you've probably heard of it and realized it varies, depending on the sending/receiving organization, project, country etc. If you have some doubts, in this article we will try to clarify how is regulated the question of participation fee: should it be charged, and if yes - how much.
First, let's make it clear in which cases the participation fee will be usually charged.
The amount of participation fee will vary; from symbolic amounts of 10-20 EUR which are pretty much acceptable in all participating countries, to high amounts where your head starts to hurt (such as 100-150 EUR), but it still seems as a good opportunity to spend 7 days abroad. They are sometimes charged as an individual project fee, a donation or as monthly/yearly membership fee for the charging organization.
Although sometimes it seems resonable, there has been a lot of polemics whether it is allowed to chage the participation fee to take part in the project. We gave it a shot and brought some conslusions.
Erasmus+ Programme is primarily regulated by Erasmus+ Programme Guide, where you can find all relevant information about the Programme itself, participants, organizations, costs etc. For every core area of the Programme, there is a special section dedicated to costs. Is there any mention of the participation fee? Not really.
Namely, such sections are dedicated to costs which you can claim as an organization when applying a project. There are fixed amounts of money determined for accommodation and food of the participants (organizational expenses), travel expenses, various exceptional costs etc. By receiving such money from Erasmus+ fund, the project organizer will be able and obliged (!) to pay for your basic project costs: travel tickets up to a pre-defined limit, accommodation, food, basic working materials.
Fixed limit depending on the distance between sending and hosting location. The distance is calculated through European distance calculator.
Fixed amount of money, calculated per person per day, depending on hosting country. Includes costs of accommodation, food, working materials etc.
Visa-related costs, costs of Advanced Planning Visit, costs of participation of young people with fewer opportunities, costs of providing a financial guarantee
Additional costs directly related to participants with disabilities and accompanying persons (for additional travel and organizational support)
But what about the participation fee?
Quite often, the gaps in the official regulations of the Programme are substituted with practices of European Commission, or by National Agencies as executive bodies of the Programme. As participation fees can be found in almost every country taking part in Erasmus+ Programme, which also significantly vary depending on the project and organization, it is very hard to conclude that there is a unified opinion of the official bodies when it comes to charging participation fee.
So is it allowed then?
Well, most of the things function on the principle "if it's not strictly forbidden, it's allowed", and basically that is the situation here. Charging participation fee from the side of above mentioned organizations is not forbidden, but we can of course discuss whether it is justified.
Namely, when speaking about additional costs, we have to bear in mind that Erasmus+ is designed to allow participants with different cultural, social, religious and other backgrounds to equally take part in opportunities it offers. Special focus is on including young people with fewer opportunities, who in comparison with their peers have less chance to take part in international activities.
On the other side, Erasmus+ envisages fixed amounts of money per each cost category of the project, where in some cases it can over-finance particular project (if organizational costs are low for the organizer, and there is money left from organizational and/or travel expenses), fully finance (just the right amount of money to cover all of the costs) or co-finance it (if organization has to provide additional financial resources to implement the project). In latter cases, the most common mean of acquiring such additional funds will be participation fees.
Of course, there are the cases where the project is fully or even over-financed, and you would still be charged a fee (for some additional expenses such as extra materials, tourist excursions, extra meals etc., or without any specific reason). Unfortunately, there is still no efficient mean to control whether justified purpose really exists, you need to trust the organization you are paying to.
Therefore, when deciding upon determining (organizations) or paying a fee (participants), take into account al of this elements and decide if it's worth it. Sometimes the extra work of the organization you're paying to is, of course, a good reason to additionally support the project. Sometimes it is just an excuse to earn some extra money, which is definitely not the purpose of the Erasmus+ Programme.
Erasmus+ is a big community, and we believe it should be based on fair-play. Futhermore, it should be based on quality and equal opportunities for all. It's not just black and white - as we described above, we believe both of the options are acceptable, only if properly justified.
Until some new regulations appear - just be smart and fair.
What is your experience? Would you agree with what is said? What is your opinion?