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The Commission's failure to provide third-country students with correct and reliable information about its scholarship scheme

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  • Case: 3031/2007/(BEH)VL
    Opened on 17 Dec 2007 - Draft recommendation on 09 Feb 2011 - Decision on 21 Dec 2011, 21 Dec 2011
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission
  • Field(s) of law: Science, information, education and culture
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Legitimate expectations, consistency and advice [Article 10 ECGAB]
  • Subject matter(s): Execution of contracts
Erasmus Mundus
Author:
Copyright: European Union

Summary of decision on complaint 3031/2007/(BEH)VL against the European Commission

The complainant is a Canadian student, who took part in a master's course in Aeronautics and Space Technology in Munich and Madrid (EuMAS 2006-2008). The Commission offered an Erasmus Mundus scholarship of EUR 21 000 to third-country students for a number of master's courses, including the EuMAS 2006-2008. The Commission's website stated that the scholarship was to cover "travel and living expenses and tuition in Europe for the full duration of the course".

The complainant turned to the Commission, pointing out that he, and his fellow students – a group of fewer than 30 students from outside the EU, experienced serious financial difficulties in making ends meet. He argued that, after the tuition fees of EUR 12 000 and travel expenses had been deducted, the remaining amount was not enough to cover basic living expenses in Munich or Madrid. The complainant therefore asked the Commission to grant him, and the other EuMAS 2006-2008 students, financial assistance. The Commission acknowledged that, in light of the issues underlined in the present case, it would have to reconsider its approach in the future. It was not, however, prepared to grant the financial assistance requested. The complainant therefore turned to the Ombudsman.

Following a thorough inquiry, the Ombudsman concluded that: (i) the information provided by the Commission regarding the Erasmus Mundus programme indeed led EuMAS 2006-2008 students from outside the EU to believe that their scholarship would enable them to enjoy a decent standard of living by European standards; and (ii) the amount available was not sufficient for that purpose. In the Ombudsman's view, the information published by the Commission did not provide the EuMAS 2006-2008 students with correct and reliable information. The Commission therefore committed an instance of maladministration. The Ombudsman first submitted a proposal for a friendly solution and then addressed a draft recommendation to the Commission. In the latter, he recommended that the Commission make an ex-gratia payment of EUR 1 500 to each of the students concerned for the inconvenience they had experienced.

The Commission rejected the draft recommendation. The Ombudsman did not find convincing the arguments on which the Commission relied to justify its refusal. He therefore closed the case with a critical remark.