Worry grows among Trinity students abroad as Erasmus grants remain unpaid

Students cite lack of communication from College as key cause of distress

A multitude of Trinity students studying abroad on the Erasmus exchange programme are yet to receive the first instalment of their Erasmus grant, sparking confusion and concern about finances. Affected students include many of those on exchanges in Scotland, Denmark, France, and Spain, and other Erasmus host countries.

History student Eoin O’Donnell, who is currently studying at the University of Edinburgh, is among those yet to receive their first Erasmus grant instalment. In an email from the Trinity Erasmus Office seen by Trinity News, O’Donnell was told on September 25 that his documents were in order and that the office would “be in contact soon regarding the first instalment of [his] grant”.

O’Donnell has not received any further communication from the office regarding his first grant instalment. Previously, the office had “been very helpful and really quick at responding to questions”, O’Donnell emphasised.

“It’s just left me a bit less secure financially,” said O’Donnell. “I was sort of led to believe I’d have the first instalment of the grant to support me shortly after I arrived, while I settled in and started looking for a job here. But now, I have no idea when the grant is coming, or even solid confirmation that it is still coming.”

Sociology and Social Policy student, Órlaith Hennessy, told Trinity News that outgoing Erasmus students were told they would receive 70% of their Erasmus grant after processing their forms, which Hennessy completed in mid-September.

“Since I’m only here for a semester, the money would have been better sooner rather than later,” said Hennessy, who is completing her Erasmus in the University of Copenhagen. “College want people to participate in Erasmus, but so far they’ve not made it a very easy process.”

Trinity’s official Erasmus grant agreement document states that students are to receive 70% of their grant within the 30 calendar days following the completion of the individual student’s grant agreement. College must also sign this agreement in addition to the student. The document does not stipulate a deadline by which College must sign the agreement.

Students must submit a Certificate of Arrival once they have reached their host university and sign their Erasmus grant agreement before the first instalment is processed.

Katie Craig, also on Erasmus in Copenhagen, submitted her Erasmus grant agreement form in June ahead of the July deadline and her arrival form the week she arrived in Copenhagen, and is still awaiting her grant. Craig initially received no communication from College after submitting her documents in June, despite sending two follow-up emails to check whether her paperwork was being processed.

“Within the first week I arrived in Copenhagen, I emailed them my signed arrival form […] and literally heard nothing about my grant for the first six weeks, despite numerous emails I sent where I was just getting automated replies to instead turn up at the Erasmus drop-in clinics, which I of course couldn’t go to,” says Craig.

Craig cites slow communication from College as a particularly “annoying” aspect of the grants process. Craig, who has made contact with the Trinity Erasmus office over email and phone enquiring when she can expect her grant, says College kept “saying it was coming and then would never reply to our emails when we followed it up”.

In a phone call with the Trinity Erasmus Office earlier in October, Craig was told the grants for students in Copenhagen would be processed within two weeks. She subsequently received an email on October 24 saying that her grant was being processed and would be in her account shortly. Craig is still waiting to receive the funds.

Sophia McDonald, who is on an Erasmus exchange in Tours, France, echoed Craig’s sentiments. “Considering I’ve gotten all the forms that I’ve needed to return back on time, it’s becoming more and more annoying that I haven’t gotten it yet. Many of the international students I’ve met have already gotten theirs, some before they left for Erasmus,” says McDonald.

English and Film Studies student, Hugh Whelan, outlined that it has been “well over a month and a half” since he submitted his documents and that he has still not received his first grant instalment. Whelan told Trinity News that College have not communicated to him when he can expect his grant, despite him having sent “multiple emails requesting when it will be made available”.

“I’m blessed enough that my parents have been able to help me out financially, but for many people this simply wouldn’t be the case,” said Whelan. “The financial support is part and parcel of the Erasmus experience, and for many is one of the key factors in making it accessible for them to go.”

Whelan noted that while “likely no one individual is solely to blame” for the slow processing of grants, he feels that “especially for those in expensive cities like Paris, it is absolutely ridiculous that Trinity is leaving students in the lurch with no financial support”.

A Trinity student on Erasmus in Spain received an email from College stating that their first grant instalment would be paid by October 31 or November 1, but has still not received their payment. A small cohort of Trinity students on exchange with the student received their grants two weeks ago after one of the students was told by College in a phone call earlier in October that grants would be received by October 23, while College is yet to contact several others.

Multiple Trinity students abroad noted that Erasmus students from other Irish universities they have spoken with have already received their grants.

Former Erasmus student Aoife MacGillycuddy spent last year studying abroad in Vienna and is awaiting her final grant instalment. In emails seen by Trinity News, the Trinity Erasmus office told MacGillycuddy on October 18 that the payment had been “approved” and had been “sent in early September”. The email requested that MacGillycuddy submit confirmation that she had received the funding.

MacGillycuddy informed the office four days later that the payment had not yet reached her bank account. The Trinity Erasmus office responded on the same day informing MacGillycuddy that the payment was sent the previous Thursday, and should be in her account by October 23 or 24. MacGillycuddy is still awaiting the payment.

The grant, known as the Erasmus Mobility Grant, is designed to cover travel costs between the student’s home and host countries, as well as the difference in living costs between the two countries. Students participating in an Erasmus exchange who are EU nationals are eligible to apply for the grant.

In 2016/17, grants were based on an €8 per day rate for students on exchanges in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. Students on exchange in Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey received grants at a rate of €6.45 per day.

Students in receipt of Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grants are eligible to apply for extra funding during an Erasmus exchange, while disabled students are also able to apply for additional funding.

It is estimated that an Erasmus year comes at a cost of approximately €7,000 for a seven to 10 month period, depending on the student’s host country, accounting for accommodation, food, and flights.

College did not respond to a request for comment.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland is the current News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Junior Sophister English Literature and Sociology student, and a former Assistant News Editor.