What do Picasso, McCartney, Einstein and Erasmus have in common?
At the age of 25 Picasso was at the height of his "blue period";
at about the same age, Paul McCartney wrote the song "Yesterday";
Albert Einstein worked on the theory of relativity at his quarter of a century birthday;
and, in its 25th year of existence, the Erasmus Programmereached record levels of participation with over 230,000 students.
It was with this comparison that the Danish Minister of Education, Morten Østergaard, opened the conference marking the 25th Anniversary of the Erasmus Programme on 8-9 May, 2012, in Copenhagen.
Princess Marie of Denmark said in her opening statement that she has always been impressed by the energy and enthusiasm that young students who completed part of their education abroad show. As a student, she herself studied abroad, gaining invaluable skills and friendships that shaped the person she is today.
Androulla Vassiliou remarked that, 25 years ago, Europe was still divided into two political blocks; Erasmus has since helped to bring people and countries in Europe together. She emphasized that Europe needs a well-educated youth now, as this is the only way to establish growth and employment in Europe for the future. The target of three million Erasmus students can be achieved by the end of 2013. The Europe 2020 strategy aims to invest more in skills and competencies. The new Erasmus for all Programme contributes to this goal by offering 5 million people the opportunity to learn abroad. The challenge is, noted the Commissioner, to make opportunities in education and training match the demands of the labour market.
At the Erasmus Conference 72 universities from 17 countries were awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of the recognition and transferability of credits. 66 Erasmus Ambassadors – one student and one staff ambassador from each of the participating countries - presented the "Erasmus Manifesto " which contains proposals for improving the programme. The Manifesto proposes, for example, to improve cooperation between universities and companies through more intensive student and staff exchanges and better recognition of traineeships performed by students abroad. Another salient proposal of the manifesto: Erasmus should reach a broader basis in the future, with more resources available for attracting underrepresented groups. Moreover, the programme should become open beyond Europe's borders and support teachers and students from around the world to help European Universities attract top global talent.
The conference concluded that in the future, more "Erasmus" is needed. Discussions on the future of the programme have already commenced, and the many good proposals developed in Copenhagen are likely to ensure another 25 years of a successful Erasmus Programme.