Erasmus Programme

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Logo of the Erasmus Programme

The Erasmus Programme (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students[1]) 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 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[edit]

The programme is named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, known as an opponent of dogmatism, who lived and worked in many places in Europe to expand his knowledge and gain new insights, and who left his fortune to the University of Basel in Switzerland.[1] At the same time, ERASMUS is a backronym meaning European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.[1]

1987 European Commission proposal[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[citation needed]

In the past twenty years, over two million students[2] have benefited from Erasmus grants, and the European Commission aims to reach a total of 3 million by 2012.[citation needed]

Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013[edit]

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[edit]

Main article: 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[edit]

On 9 May 2012,[3] 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.[4]

Erasmus+ 2014–2020[edit]

Erasmus+ (2014-2020), also called Erasmus Plus, is the new 14.7 billion euro catch-all framework programme for education, training, youth and sport.[5] 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[6] was signed on 11 December 2013.[7]


There are currently more than 4,000 higher institutions participating in Erasmus across the 33 countries involved in the Erasmus programme and by 2013, 3 million students[8] had taken part since the programme's inception in 1987. In 2012-13 alone, 270,000 took part, the most popular destinations being Spain, Germany, and France.[9] Erasmus students represented 5 percent of European graduates as of 2012.[10]

A number of studies have raised issues related to the selection into the programme and the representativeness of the participants. Such 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.[11] Other study argues that the reason why the Erasmus programme misses its mark to reinforce a European identity is that it addresses university students, who are already very likely to feel European.[12] Finally, a study finds out 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.[13]


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 high (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 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.[14]

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,[15] 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"[edit]

Cultural phenomenon[edit]

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[16]

The programme fosters learning and understanding of the host country. The Erasmus experience is considered both a time for learning as well as a chance to socialise.

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.

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'.[17]

In popular culture[edit]


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.[18]


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.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "What's in a name? History of the Erasmus Programme". Archived from the original on 2013-04-04. 
  2. ^, Table: Erasmus student mobility (number of outgoing students): 1987/88-2006/07
  3. ^
  4. ^ Simona Pronckutė (1 November 2013). "European Citizens Initiatives – one year of challenges". Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Green light for Erasmus+: More than 4 million to get EU grants for skills and employability". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Procedure file of COD 2011/0371
  8. ^ "Reaching the three million student mobility target, page 30" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "Press release--Another record-breaking year for Erasmus". 
  10. ^ "Erasmus students as a proportion of graduates in 2012, page 35" (PDF). 
  11. ^ Otero, Manuel Souto (2008-02-12). "The Socio-Economic Background of Erasmus Students: A Trend Towards Wider Inclusion?". International Review of Education. 54 (2): 135–154. doi:10.1007/s11159-007-9081-9. ISSN 0020-8566. 
  12. ^ Kuhn, Theresa (2012-11-01). "Why Educational Exchange Programmes Miss Their Mark: Cross-Border Mobility, Education and European Identity*". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies. 50 (6): 994–1010. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02286.x. ISSN 1468-5965. 
  13. ^ Varela, Diego (2016-05-05). "Grade uncertainty and the adverse selection of Erasmus students: a Spanish experience". Journal of Contemporary European Research. 12 (2). ISSN 1815-347X. 
  14. ^ "Swiss students out of Erasmus program starting in 2015". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Student rooms and accommodation, internships and erasmus guides.". Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  16. ^ "Erasmus 24_7 Official Website". 
  17. ^ Bennhold, Katrin (26 April 2005). "Quietly sprouting: A European identity". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 21 November 2006. 
  18. ^ "Online novels by Nimra Ahmed". 
  19. ^ "cafébabel, the first European media". European Commission. 16 July 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]