"The Erasmus programme is one of the great success stories of the European Union. The latest figures speak for themselves: Erasmus is more popular than ever and I am committed to securing more resources for it in future. Studying or training abroad opens doors to personal development and job opportunities so we are right to be ambitious when it comes to investing in our young people," said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
Erasmus is the world's most successful student exchange programme and, on current trends, the EU will reach its target of supporting 3 million European students by 2012/13 since the programme's launch in 1987.
The EU invested 415 million euros in Erasmus in 2009/10.
Work placements in companies abroad have been supported through Erasmus since 2007 and are becoming increasingly popular. In 2009/10, 35,000 students (one in six of the total) chose this option, representing a 17.3% increase on the previous year. Spain was the top destination for students (6,061) followed by UK (5,827) and Germany (4,582).
Females represented the majority of Erasmus students (61 per cent).
In addition, 38,000 grants were awarded to university staff and teachers to teach or receive training abroad, 4% more than in the previous year.
Studying or training abroad helps young people to develop skills which employers value - from language learning and greater inter-cultural awareness to leadership and adaptability. Erasmus students tend to be more willing to work abroad later in life.
Erasmus has also helped to make higher education in Europe more international and helped to trigger improvements in course quality, comparability and transparency.
A recent Eurobarometer survey (IP/11/567) found that many students are thwarted in their ambition to study or train abroad due to a lack of funding. It found that, of those who wanted to go abroad, 33% couldn't afford it and nearly two-thirds (63%) of those who did had to rely on private funding or savings.
"This finding underlines the need to strengthen our mobility programmes, which provide excellent value for money," said Commissioner Vassiliou.
Last month, EU education ministers adopted a joint plan to remove obstacles to learning mobility and to boost it through additional financing and curricula reforms.
Learning mobility is a key objective of the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs and the focus of the Commission's 'Youth on the Move' initiative which builds on the success of Erasmus.
For more details on figures see Memo/11/375
All statistical annexes can be found
Erasmus facts and figures [brochure]
How can students and staff apply for Erasmus grants?
The Erasmus programme is open to all students studying at higher education institutions holding an Erasmus University Charter in 33 participating countries (27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, Croatia and, from this summer, Switzerland).
Erasmus studies: those who want to carry out part of their studies abroad must be at least in their second year at a higher education institution. Most of Europe’s 4,000 higher education institutions have already signed up to it.
Erasmus placements: students can take up an Erasmus placement from the first year of higher education studies up until they graduate. Periods abroad – both for studies and for placements – can last from 3 to 12 months each, or a combined total of 24 months. For students in short-cycle higher vocational education the minimum duration for placements is two months (from 2010 onwards). Erasmus grants are designed to cover part of the additional costs of living abroad and travel. Erasmus students do not need to pay tuition fees at their host institution abroad.
Erasmus for staff: Erasmus also enables higher education teaching staff and those employed in private businesses to go abroad to teach for one day up to six weeks. The application procedure for teaching assignments and staff training is the same as for students but teaching staff are required to submit a teaching programme to their home institution or enterprise agreed by the host institution.
The first step for British students or teachers for an Erasmus study period or placement and a grant is to contact the British Council and to fill in a learning agreement for Erasmus studies or a training agreement for Erasmus placements.
British Council - Erasmus
10, Spring Gardens
UK-London SW1A 2BN
Tel: (44) 207 389 4277
For more details of the Erasmus programme
Note for editors:
Patrick Kiely, a British graduate from the University of Kent, found many of his peers were unaware of the Erasmus scheme and believes that universities need to do more to promote the programme to all students, not just language students. Talking about his experience, he said: "it was an essential part of my growth and enabled me to be confident living and studying with my European counterparts".
Patrick participated in the 2009/2010 Erasmus programme, and studied French Literature at the Sorbonne, Paris from September 2009 to June 2010.
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