Speech by Dr Hywel Ceri Jones, after being awarded the International Award for Vision and Leadership by the European Association for International Education

Hywel Ceri Jones was Head of the European Commission’s first-ever Department for Education and Youth Policies, as well as the Commission’s Director for Education, Training and Youth. He played the leading role in the design, negotiation and management of several EU flagship programmes, notably Erasmus, Comett, Tempus and Petra. He also played a special role in the promotion of equal opportunities and in the development of the EU’s policy on behalf of disabled persons.


Seville, September 2017


Thank you warmly for honouring me with this award today. I was privileged in my career to have the opportunity to direct the European Commission’s team throughout the 20 year period which saw the birth of the EU’s education and training flagship programmes – including: COMETT, PETRA , LINGUA, Youth for Europe and TEMPUS as well as ERASMUS.

By 2020 these programmes will have involved over 9 million in all – student , apprentices, youth, volunteers and staff – engaging virtually all European higher education institutions, and connecting universities across the globe.

I take great pride in being a founding father of these European programmes, especially Erasmus, though I certainly did not anticipate that there would by now be more than 1 million Erasmus babies in the world!

The successful development of these programmes resulted from great team work with colleagues which I wish to acknowledge today. The support of the team to the conception, negotiation, delivery and implementation of the programmes was hugely important. I am pleased that today my friend and former colleague Alan Smith is also being honoured with your prestigious award. I would like to pay warm tribute as well to the present team at the Commission and its commitment to take Erasmus + plus from strength to strength in the years ahead.

I am especially pleased to see the present breadth and depth of Erasmus +, building from its strong inter-university component, to include opportunities for initial and further vocational education as well as for youth initiatives. This will I hope provide an important impetus to raise the status and quality of vocational education and training in Europe.

All this would not have been possible without the political breakthroughs achieved in the 1980s to secure the necessary legal basis for educational cooperation in the EU treaty and thereby legitimise funding from the EU budget for these programmes. In particular, I wish to testify to the passionate, political leadership of two European Commissioners, Peter Sutherland from Ireland and Manuel Marin from Spain, backed by President Jacques Delors. Their contribution was absolutely crucial to secure, with great difficulty, the political agreement of all Member States.

Today, both Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 are centre-pieces of the EU Strategy of development on the global stage. I believe we can look forward with confidence to them receiving even greater priority in the post 2020 period with the strong support from the European Parliament.

Without the determined leadership and entrepreneurial energy of so many actors in the field, many of you present here today, all this would, however, not work in practice. I salute the contribution of the European Association and all its members, especially your commitment to embed internationalisation of studies institutionally in curricula and teaching at all levels. On this 30th Anniversary of the Erasmus Programme, I wish you all every success with your future work.


Click here to read Dr Ceri Jones’ latest article on the development of the ERASMUS programme:

Celebrating 30 years of the Erasmus programme

European Journal of Education, 24th October 2017