In 1987 the European Commission began supporting a mobility programme for European students named after the cosmopolitan scholar Erasmus. Quickly the programme became very popular amongst the European students. Its core idea was to facilitate university students’ mobility amongst European universities. Thanks to the introduction of the new Europe-wide programme, university students had increased opportunity to spend a study period abroad at a partner higher education institution in another European country.
In 1987 the European Commission granted funds for over 3000 students. The Erasmus programme had been launched.
Since 1987 many things have changed. The Erasmus programme has been incorporated under the SOCRATES umbrella. Socrates is Europe’s education programme and involves 30 European countries. Its main objective is to build up a Europe of knowledge and thus provide a response to the major challenges of this new century: to promote lifelong learning, encourage access to education for everybody, and help people acquire recognised qualifications and skills. In more specific terms, Socrates seeks to promote language learning, and to encourage mobility and innovation. It now contains eight different actions. All of them are oriented to promote a European dimension of education and to improve its quality by encouraging co-operation between the participating countries. By promoting European student mobility, Erasmus develops an increased awareness of European citizenship among the university population.
The Erasmus programme, together with additional measures such as the European Credit Transfer System and the Diploma Supplement , has made European student mobility a concrete and feasible reality for over a million pioneers. In 1987, only eleven countries (BE, DK, DE, GR, ES, FR, IE, IT, NL, PT, UK) took part in the Erasmus programme. Currently Erasmus students may move within 30 participating countries. Erasmus students are contributing to shaping a common European identity. Their stories tell us that, after fifteen years, "Erasmus" continues to be a major European Union accomplishment.
In October the European Commission DG Education and Culture together with the students associations, the National Agencies and the academic networks will celebrate the unique achievement of a million Erasmus students. On October 18, 2002 the "Erasmus week" will be launched all over the participating countries. While at a national and local level the universities will celebrate the event, 30 former and current Erasmus students will be invited to Brussels to participate in the event there. The students will meet Commissioner Reding and the European Council members. On the occasion of the celebration, the European Commission DG Education and Culture will also present the Erasmus Student Charter, a "mobility card" stating the Erasmus student rights and duties, which will be issued to each student from the academic year 2003/04.
If you are interested in joining the Europe-wide celebration and you would like to celebrate the Erasmus week in your university, please contact the International Relations Office in your university or your National Agency for further information.