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Erasmus: changing lives, opening minds for 25 years

30.01.2012 Erasmus, the world's most successful student exchange programme, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Nearly three million students have benefited from a study period or work placement abroad since the creation of the Erasmus programme in 1987.

Under the slogan, 'Erasmus: changing lives, opening minds for 25 years', the silver anniversary celebrations will be launched today by Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. Erasmus mobility is at the heart of the Commission's strategy to combat youth unemployment by focusing more on skills development – an issue which will be discussed by heads of state and government at today's Informal European Council.

“The impact of Erasmus has been tremendous, not only for individual students, but for the European economy as a whole. Through its support for high-quality teaching and a modern higher education system, with closer links between academia and employers, it is helping us to tackle the skills mismatch. It also gives young people the confidence and ability to work in other countries, where the right jobs might be available, and not to be trapped by a geographic mismatch," said President Barroso.

Commissioner Vassiliou added: "Erasmus is one of the great success stories of the European Union: it is our best known and most popular programme. Erasmus exchanges enable students to improve their knowledge of foreign languages and to develop skills such as adaptability which improve their job prospects. It also provides opportunities for teachers and other staff to see how higher education works in other countries and to bring the best ideas home. Demand for places strongly exceeds the resources available in many countries – one of the reasons why we plan to expand opportunities for study and training abroad under our proposed new education, training and youth programme, Erasmus for All."

In the 2011/2012 academic year, more than 250 000 students will benefit from the Erasmus programme. The most popular destinations for students are expected to be Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, while the countries sending the most students abroad are expected to be Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland. The EU has allocated around € 3 billion for Erasmus for the period 2007-13.

Erasmus for All would bring together all the current EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport, replacing seven existing programmes with one. This will increase efficiency, make it easier to apply for grants, as well as reducing duplication and fragmentation. Under the new programme, the aim is for up to 5 million people, almost twice as many as now, to get the chance to study, train or teach abroad. The Commission's proposal is currently being discussed by the Member States and the European Parliament, which decide the future budget.

Events marking the celebration

The celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus programme will be launched in Brussels today with a conference which will evaluate the programme's impact and discuss its future. Denmark, which holds the EU Presidency in the first half of 2012, together with the European Commission, will also organise a follow-up conference in Copenhagen on 9 May. The anniversary will also be celebrated at events organised in the Member States.

"Erasmus ambassadors" from the 33 countries participating in the scheme will be present at many of these events. The ambassadors, one student and one staff member, have been chosen to represent each country, based on the impact that Erasmus has had on their professional and private lives; their role is to encourage other students and staff to take advantage of the opportunities it offers to change lives and open minds. During the conference in Copenhagen in May, they will present the 'Erasmus Manifesto' which will set out their vision of how the scheme can develop in future.

Background

The Erasmus programme was launched in 1987 with 3 244 young, adventurous students who took part in learning experiences in one of the 11 countries which initially participated in the programme. Now, 33 countries take part in the scheme - the 27 EU member states, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

In the past 25 years, the programme has seen a constant rise in both the number of students and in the quality and diversity of the proposed activities. Teachers and other staff, such as university international relations officers who are often the first point of contact for potential Erasmus students, can also benefit from EU support to teach or train abroad – nearly 40 000 did so in 2010/2011.

Work placements in companies abroad have been supported through Erasmus since 2007 and are increasingly popular. Up to now, grants have already been awarded to nearly 150 000 students for this purpose. In 2009/10, 35 000 students (one in six of the total) chose a work placement, which was a 17% increase on the previous year.

For more information:

See also the memo on Frequently Asked Questions: Erasmus Programme here.

More about the Erasmus programme: http://ec.europa.eu/education/erasmus 

Video interviews with Erasmus Ambassadors: http://ec.europa.eu/education/erasmus/ambassadors_en.htm :
- Tomás Sánchez López  (lead systems engineer at EADS)
- Piroska Bakos (Hungarian TV news presenter)
- Maurizio Oliviero (Professor at the University of Perugia, member of the group drafting the Palestinian constitution; assisting in the reform of the judicial system in Afghanistan)
- Elena Luptak (contemporary dance teacher and Erasmus coordinator, Konservatorium Wien University)

Additional information

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  • Last update: 30 | 01 | 2012