The package, titled the Lifelong Learning Programme is much less in terms of funding than originally planned and hoped for, although Union funding for education is now increased. Critics point to the fact that the EU has many new members, and thus would need a substantial increase in funding in order to lessen the many gaps in educational provision in all member states. The recently published Adult Education trends and issues study identifies some of the gaps in policy, in provision, and in funding. The official stance of the Commission is to hightlight that for the first time a single programme will cover learning opportunities from childhood to old age. The Lifelong Learning Programme will cover the period 2007-2013, and is the successor to the current Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and eLearning programmes. It has a budget of € 7 bn to support projects and activities that foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between education and training systems within the EU. The suggested mobility targets for adult education are still in place, only drastically reduced in numbers.
Ján Figel, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism, said, "Education and training are the cement that binds societies together in the face of economic and demographic change. I therefore welcome the decision of the European Parliament to join the Council in adopting the Lifelong Learning Programme. It is a tangible, ‘hands-on' result of policy cooperation in education and training between the Member States and the EU institutions. With it, it will be possible for individuals in schools, universities and companies across Europe, and in all stages of life, to pursue all manner of stimulating learning opportunities, by participating in Programme-funded projects. I am also pleased because it arrives twenty years after the flagship programme for university education, Erasmus, was launched in 1987, emphasising the continuity and effectiveness of Community action in the field of education."
The Lifelong Learning Programme is the title of a structure that is built on four pillars, or sub-programmes. Grants and subsidies will be awarded to projects under each of these that enhance the trans-national mobility of individuals, promote bilateral and multilateral partnerships, or improve quality in education and training systems through multilateral projects encouraging innovation, for example.
The four pillars are
These four pillars are joined by what will be known as a "transversal programme" (€ 369 million), which will pursue the following four key activities
Finally, these actions will be complemented by the new Jean Monnet programme (€ 170 million), which supports institutions and activities in the field of European integration.
Critical voices are also raised concerning the final distribution of the reduced funding between these four pillars, as the Grundtvig Prgramme was mose severly cut in its percentage of the global budget allocated. Originally the plan called for 7% of the education budget. It ended at a disappointing 4%. This is a clear indication of the weakness of the adult education strength to lobby, or of the low priority put on non forma adult education, depending on your point of view.
The implementation of the Lifelong Learning Programme has been allocated a budget of € 6 970 million for the period of the 7 years from 1 January 2007 to end December 2013.