The Erasmus Programme (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is a European Union (EU) student exchange programme established in 1987. Erasmus+, or Erasmus Plus, is the new programme combining all the EU's current schemes for education, training, youth and sport, which was started in January 2014.
The idea of allowing the exchange between European students originated in 1969, when Italian Sofia Corradi (nicknamed "Mamma Erasmus") educator and scientific consultant of the permanent conference of Italian University Rectors: her role allowed her to raise awareness about this idea and make it known in the academic and institutional sphere.
The project was born thanks to an initiative of the EGEE student association (now AEGEE ) founded by Franck Biancheri (who later became president of the trans-European movement Newropeans) which in 1986-1987 convinced French president François Mitterrand to support the creation of the Erasmus programmel.
This active collaboration between AEGEE and the European Commission and especially Domenico Lenarduzzi, Ministry of Public Education, allowed the approval of the Erasmus program in 1987. It became an integral part of the Socrates I (1994-1999) and Socrates programs II (2000-2006). Since 2007 it has become one of the elements of the Lifelong Learning Program (2007-2013).
As of 2014, 27 years after its creation, the program has managed to promote the mobility of more than 3.3 million students within the European community. More than 4000 university institutions from 31 countries are participating in the project.
The Erasmus Programme, together with a number of other independent programmes, was incorporated into the Socrates programme established by the European Commission in 1994. The Socrates programme ended on 31 December 1999 and was replaced with the Socrates II programme on 24 January 2000, which in turn was replaced by the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 on 1 January 2007.
Origins of the name
The programme is named after the Dutch philosopher, theologian, Renaissance Humanist, monk, and devout Roman Catholic, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists". Erasmus, along with his good friend Thomas More, became one of the main figures of European intellectual life during the Renaissance. Known for his satire, Erasmus urged internal reform of the Catholic Church. He encouraged a recovery of the Catholic Patristic tradition against what he considered to be contemporary abuses of the Sacraments and certain excessive devotional practices. He famously clashed with Protestant revolutionary Martin Luther on the subject of free will. ERASMUS is a backronym meaning EuRopean community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.
1987 European Commission proposal
By the time the Erasmus Programme was adopted in June 1987, the European Commission had been supporting pilot student exchanges for 6 years. It proposed the original Erasmus Programme in early 1986, but reaction from the then Member States varied: those with substantial exchange programmes of their own (essentially France, Germany and the United Kingdom) were broadly hostile; the remaining countries were broadly in favour. Exchanges between the Member States and the European Commission deteriorated, and the latter withdrew the proposal in early 1987 to protest against the inadequacy of the triennial budget proposed by some Member States.
European Court of Justice decision
This method of voting was not accepted by some of the opposing Member States, who challenged the adoption of the decision before the European Court of Justice. Although the Court held that the adoption was procedurally flawed, it maintained the substance of the decision; a further decision, adapted in the light of the jurisprudence, was rapidly adopted by the Council of Ministers.
Adoption and growth
The programme built on the 1981–1986 pilot student exchanges, and although it was formally adopted only shortly before the beginning of the academic year 1987-1988, it was still possible for 3,244 students to participate in Erasmus in its first year. In 2006, over 150,000 students, or almost 1% of the European student population, took part. The proportion is higher among university teachers, where Erasmus teacher mobility is 1.9% of the teacher population in Europe, or 20,877 people.
Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013
The Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 replaced the Socrates programme as the overall umbrella under which the Erasmus (and other) programmes operate from 2007.
The Erasmus Mundus programme is another, parallel programme that is oriented towards globalising European education. Whereas the Erasmus Programme is open to Europeans, Erasmus Mundus is open to non-Europeans with Europeans being exceptional cases.
Citizens' initiative for more money 2014–2020
On 9 May 2012, Fraternité 2020 was registered as Europe's first European Citizens' Initiative. Its goal was to increase the budget for EU exchange programmes like Erasmus or the European Voluntary Service from 2014. To be successful it would have needed 1 million signatures by 1 November 2013. It ultimately collected only 71,057 signatures from citizens across the EU.
Erasmus+ (2014-2020), also called Erasmus Plus, is the new 14.7 billion euro catch-all framework programme for education, training, youth and sport. The new Erasmus+ programme combines all the EU's current schemes for education, training, youth and sport, including the Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig), Youth in Action and five international co-operation programmes (Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the programme for co-operation with industrialised countries). The Erasmus+ regulation was signed on 11 December 2013.
Erasmus+ [...] provides grants for a wide range of actions including the opportunity for students to undertake work placements abroad and for teachers and education staff to attend training courses.
All projects are divided in two parts - formal and non-formal education - each of them has 3 key actions. Erasmus+ key action 1 provides a unique opportunity for teachers, headmasters, trainers and other staff of education institutions to participate in international training courses in different European countries.
Erasmus+ also conducts projects in Central Asia's Kazakhstan. The programme funded 40 projects involving 47 universities in Kazakhstan. The total sum of the grant amounted to more than 35.5 million euro.
Erasmus Programme 2021–2027
On 30 May, 2018, the European Commission adopted its proposal for the next Erasmus programme, with a doubling of the budget to 30 billion euros for the period 2021-2027. Further negotiations were expected to take place during the 2019-2024 European parliamentary term with the European Parliament and the European Council before the final programme is adopted.
More than 9 million people have participated to the Erasmus program since its creation. The number of young participants has increased significantly since 1987. Nearly 300,000 a year for only 3,244 in 1987. Spain is the country that allowed most people to participate to Erasmus with more than 40,000 per year, ahead of France, Germany and Italy. The countries receiving the most students are Spain with more than 39,000 students and then Germany. There are currently more than 4,000 higher institutions participating in Erasmus across the 37 countries. In 2012-13 alone, 270,000 took part, the most popular destinations being Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Erasmus students represented 5 percent of European graduates as of 2012.
Studies have discussed issues related to the selection into the programme and the representativeness of the participants. Some studies have raised doubts about the inclusiveness of the programme, by socio-economic background, level of study, or academic performance. Thus, one study analyses the financial issues and family background of Erasmus students, showing that despite the fact that access to the programme has been moderately widened, there are still important socio-economic barriers to participation in the programme. Another study uncovered what seems to be an adverse self-selection of Erasmus students based on their prior academic performance, with higher-performing students less likely to participate than lower-performing ones. However, this case was based on a number of four hundred graduates in a Spanish university only. Inversely, one study looking in details at French and Italian students found that the primary predictor of participation to Erasmus was students' prior academic records, not the occupation of their parents.
The Erasmus Programme had previously been restricted to applicants who had completed at least one year of tertiary-level study, but it is now also available to secondary school students.
Students who join the Erasmus Programme study at least 3 months or do an internship for a period of at least 2 months to an academic year in another European country. The former case is called a Student Mobility for Studies or SMS, while the latter case is called a Student Mobility of Placement or SMP. The Erasmus Programme guarantees that the period spent abroad is recognised by their university when they come back, as long as they abide by terms previously agreed. Switzerland has been suspended as a participant in the Erasmus programme as of 2015, following the popular vote to limit the immigration of EU citizens into Switzerland. As a consequence, Swiss students will not be able to apply for the programme and European students will not be able to spend time at a Swiss university under that programme.
A main part of the programme is that students do not pay extra tuition fees to the university that they visit. Students can also apply for an Erasmus grant to help cover the additional expense of living abroad. Students with disabilities can apply for an additional grant to cover extraordinary expenses.
In order to reduce expenses and increase mobility, many students also use the European Commission-supported accommodation network, CasaSwap, FlatClub, Erasmusinn, Eurasmus, Erasmate or Student Mundial, which are free websites where students and young people can rent, sublet, offer and swap accommodation – on a national and international basis. A derived benefit is that students can share knowledge and exchange tips and hints with each other before and after going abroad.
The "Erasmus experience"
For many European students, the Erasmus Programme is their first time living and studying in another country. Hence, it has become a cultural phenomenon and is very popular among European students, going on to become the subject of movies such as the French film L'Auberge espagnole, and the documentary Erasmus 24 7.
The programme fosters learning and understanding of the host country, and the Erasmus experience is considered both a time for learning as well as a chance to socialise and experience a different culture.
Tutors are often keen for students of subjects such as Politics or International Relations to participate in Erasmus. It is seen as a great opportunity to study abroad while not having the expense of studying outside the European Union, since the grants available to Erasmus students are not available to those opting to leave the continent to study.
The Erasmus generation
Some academics have speculated that former Erasmus students will prove to be a powerful force in creating a pan-European identity. The political scientist Stefan Wolff, for example, has argued that "Give it 15, 20 or 25 years, and Europe will be run by leaders with a completely different socialisation from those of today", referring to the so-called 'Erasmus generation'. This term describes young Europeans who participate in Erasmus programme and are assumed to support European integration more actively when compared with their elder generations. The assumption is that young Europeans, who enjoyed the benefits of European integration, think of themselves as European citizens, and therefore create a base of support for further European integration. However, questions are raised about whether there is positive correlation between the programme and pro-European integration. According to the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, Erasmus programme is a soft power tool and it reflects the political motivation behind its creation, including the task of legitimising the European institutions. This conception has already presented in the project of Sofia Corradi, an Italian educationalist creator of the Erasmus Program. She gives a particular attention to the need to activate an exchange between young people from all over Europe to contribute to the strengthening of its unity and integrity.
One issue discussed is if Erasmus is helping to generate more European solidarity. A study carried out by the European Commission in 2010, shows that participating to Erasmus strengthens tolerance. Another issue is whether Erasmus enables the mixing of Europeans. For example, more than a quarter of Erasmus participants meet their life partner through it and participation in Erasmus encourages mobility between European countries. Most young people had a strong European identity before participating in the Erasmus program. In fact, for these young people, the Erasmus experience makes them even more European, but the research showed no evidence that taking part in the Erasmus programme would lead to revolutionary changes in students' political views.
In popular culture
Most of the characters in the movie L'Auberge Espagnole are enrolled in the Erasmus programme and the programme plays a central role in the plot.
Pakistani novelist Nimra Ahmed's novel Jannat K Patte (Leaves of Heaven) is based on the Erasmus programme, where the protagonist Haya goes to Sabancı University through Erasmus Mundus, which marks a turning point in her life.
The online public forum cafébabel was founded in 2001 by Erasmus exchange programme students, and is headquartered in Paris. The forum is based on the principle of participatory journalism. As of July 2013 it had over 16,000 registered members, up to 1,500 contributors and 20 ‘local offices’ writing about Europe as they see it. Volunteer contributors simultaneously translate the forum into six languages – French, English, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish.
- Academic mobility
- Comenius programme
- Erasmus Student Network (ESN) – Non-profit European students organisation
- Association des États Généraux des Étudiants de l'Europe (AEGEE) – Non-profit European students organisation
- European Students' Union (ESU) – Non-profit European students organisation
- European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM) - Non-profit European students organisation
- European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)
- European Higher Education Area
- Socrates Network for Translator Training
- Student exchange programme
- Public diplomacy
- Enhancing Student Mobility through Online Support
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