Erasmus Programme

The Erasmus Programme (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students[1]) is a European Union (EU) student exchange programme established in 1987.[2][3] 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.[4]

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.[5]

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".[1] 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.[1]

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.[1]

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.

In the past twenty years, over two million students[6] have benefited from Erasmus grants, and the European Commission aims to reach a total of 3 million by 2012.

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.

Erasmus Mundus

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,[7] 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.[8]

Erasmus+ 2014–2020

Erasmus+ (2014-2020), also called Erasmus Plus, is the new 14.7 billion euro catch-all framework programme for education, training, youth and sport.[9] 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[10] was signed on 11 December 2013.[11]

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.[12]

The staff home institution shall apply to receive the grant to send its staff members abroad for training.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]


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.[17] 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.[18] Erasmus students represented 5 percent of European graduates as of 2012.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22]


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.[23][24] 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.[25]

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,[26] 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"

Cultural phenomenon

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.[27]

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'.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] 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,[31] 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.[32]

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.[33] For example, more than a quarter of Erasmus participants meet their life partner through it and participation in Erasmus encourages mobility between European countries.[34] 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.[35]


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.[36]


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.[37]

See also


  1. "What's in a name? History of the Erasmus Programme". Archived from the original on 4 April 2013.
  2. Council decision, OJ L 166, 25.06.1987
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Sofia Corradi, "Mamma Erasmus"". Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  5. "ErasmusFacts, Figures & Trends" (PDF).
  6. Archived 11 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Table: Erasmus student mobility (number of outgoing students): 1987/88-2006/07
  7. "Open initiatives - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Archived from the original on 6 July 2014.
  8. Simona Pronckutė (1 November 2013). "European Citizens Initiatives – one year of challenges". Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  9. "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Green light for Erasmus+: More than 4 million to get EU grants for skills and employability". Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  10. Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing 'Erasmus+': the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport and repealing Decisions No 1719/2006/EC, No 1720/2006/EC and No 1298/2008/EC Text with EEA relevance Archived 4 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Procedure File: 2011/0371(COD) - Legislative Observatory - European Parliament". Archived from the original on 23 June 2017.
  12. Anonymous (7 October 2016). "How to read the Programme Guide". Erasmus+ - European Commission. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  13. "Erasmus Plus Funding for Teacher Training Courses | Erasmus+ KA1". TEACHER TRAINING. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  14. "Kazakh universities take part in European projects: Erasmus+ Projects Fair opened at the Eurasian National University".
  15. "Commission adopts proposal for the next Erasmus programme 2021-2027". European Commission. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  16. Benakis, Theodoros (28 March 2019). "Erasmus+ 2021-2027: Budget tripled for the 2021-2027 period". European Interest. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  17. European Commission (2015). Erasmus facts, figures and trends (PDF). Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. pp. 5, 37. ISBN 978-92-79-52814-9.
  18. "Press release--Another record-breaking year for Erasmus". Archived from the original on 20 September 2014.
  19. "Erasmus students as a proportion of graduates in 2012, page 35" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 March 2016.
  20. Otero, Manuel Souto (12 February 2008). "The Socio-Economic Background of Erasmus Students: A Trend Towards Wider Inclusion?" (PDF). International Review of Education. 54 (2): 135–154. doi:10.1007/s11159-007-9081-9. ISSN 0020-8566.
  21. Varela, Diego (5 May 2016). "Grade uncertainty and the adverse selection of Erasmus students: a Spanish experience". Journal of Contemporary European Research. 12 (2). ISSN 1815-347X. Archived from the original on 29 May 2016.
  22. Di Pietro, Giorgio (20 August 2008). "Who Studies Abroad? Evidence from France and Italy". European Journal of Education. 43 (3): 389–398. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3435.2008.00355.x. ISSN 1465-3435.
  23. IUZ, Admin. "Erasmus+ | Outgoing | International Office | TU Chemnitz". Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  24. "What administration do I have to do before departure? – ISBI". Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  25. "Swiss students out of Erasmus program starting in 2015". Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  26. "Student rooms and accommodation, internships and erasmus guides". Archived from the original on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  27. "Erasmus 24_7 Official Website". Archived from the original on 4 May 2014.
  28. Bennhold, Katrin (26 April 2005). "Quietly sprouting: A European identity". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 July 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  29. Iain Wilson, What should we Expect of ‘Erasmus Generations’, Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol.49, No.5, p.1114
  30. Feyen,B. The Making of a Success Story: the Creation of the programme in the Historical Context. in B.Feyen & Krzaklewska (Eds.), The Erasmus Phenomenon-Symbol of a New European Generation?(p.22)
  31. "Europe's 'soft power': EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics on European identity". France 24. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  32. Corradi, Sofia (2015). Student mobility in higher education Erasmus and Erasmus plus. Rome: Laboratorio di educazione permanente, Dipartimento di scienze della formazione, Università degli Studi Statale Roma tre. pp. 19–21. ISBN 9788890527326.
  33. "In the spotlight: Erasmus+ brings people together". European Commission. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  34. European Commission (2014). The Erasmus impact study: effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education institutions (PDF). European Union. pp. 14, 70. ISBN 978-92-79-38380-9.
  35. Wilson, I. (2011). "What Should we Expect of 'Erasmus Generations'?" (PDF). JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies. 49 (5): 1113–1140. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5965.2010.02158.x.
  36. "Online novels by Nimra Ahmed". Archived from the original on 31 August 2015.
  37. "cafébabel, the first European media". European Commission. 16 July 2013. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.

Further reading

  • Benjamin Feyen/Ewa Krzaklewska (eds.): "The ERASMUS Phenomenon - Symbol of a New European Generation?" Peter Lang Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-3-631-62719-8

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