Thanks to extra funding more students than ever participated in the EU’s flagship education and training programme last year.
Nearly 200 000 students received EU funding in 2008-09 to study or undertake traineeships abroad – an increase of 8.7% compared with the previous funding period.
The sharp rise in participation, coinciding with a 12% increase in the Erasmus budget, shows that students are eager to take advantage of the funds if they’re available. The average monthly grant was also raised to €272 – meaning a bit more money than before for students to cover living costs.
Erasmus is one of the most popular EU programmes, with over 2.2 million students taking part since it began in 1987. It gives students in higher education the chance to spend between 3 and 12 months in another European country – either to study or for on-the-job training.
With the addition of Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2009, over 4 000 higher education institutions in 33 European countries now participate in the programme.
Spain, France and Germany were the most popular destinations and these three countries also sent the highest number of students, accounting for 40% of the total numbers.
Courses taken in another country are recognised by the student's home university, so a term or two abroad is not time wasted. As well as broadening academic opportunities, on a personal level the programme fosters intercultural skills and helps students become more independent.
In 2007 the scope of Erasmus funding widened to give students the chance to go abroad for work placements in businesses or organisations. Some 30 400 students took this opportunity in 2008-09 – up more than 50% on the previous year. Numbers for teaching staff from higher education institutions benefitting from the scheme also rose, to 36 400.
The Erasmus programme contributes to the EU’s new strategy for growth and jobs – Europe 2020 – by equipping young people with the transferable skills required in an ever more competitive global market.