One year after its silver anniversary, the Erasmus exchange programme has enjoyed its biggest year yet in terms of the number of students and professionals using the service.
The Erasmus (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) programme, named after the philosopher, theologian and humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam and established in 1987, is a European Union student exchange programme open to students, teachers and other staff. It enables them to attend one of around 4,000 higher education institutions across 33 participating countries across Europe.
In the last academic year (2011/12) Erasmus reached more than 250,000 students, according to a press release from the European Commission. The European Union believes it will be able to attain its target of 3 million students by the end of this academic year (2012-2013).
The numbers of Erasmus students grew in almost every country, with an overall increase of 7.5 percent. The highest increase in out-bound students was in Croatia (+62 percent), Denmark (+20 percent), Slovenia and Turkey (+17 percent each). There was however a decrease in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Romania. The most popular destination for Erasmus participants are Spain, France and Germany; these countries also have the highest number of students benefiting from the programme, with 39,545 for Spain, 33,363 for Germany and 33,269 for France.
Students are able to study for Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral level degrees for three to 12 months in another institution, and also have the possibility to go abroad in companies or organisations in order to gain work experience. Eighteen percent more students participated in this job placement option in 2011-2012 compared to the previous year. Erasmus, however, is not limited to students: higher education teaching staff and people employed in companies are also able to teach or receive training abroad. This initiative increased by 8.6 percent.
The number of Erasmus Intensive Language Courses (EILC) has also increased: in 2011-2012, 11 percent more courses were organised compared to the previous year and 13 percent more students took part. EILC are specialised courses designed to help students prepare for their study and work placement in countries in which languages are not widely and commonly taught. The number of Erasmus intensive programs also continues to grow, with an increase of 14 percent in 2011-2012 compared to 2010-2011.
From 2007 to 2013 the EU has spent 3.1 billion euros on the Erasmus programme. Most of this budget is managed by the national agencies in each participating country. Students receive a monthly EU grant, which is on average 250 euros, intended to cover part of the additional cost of living abroad and travel. The amount given in a grant depends on the destination country and the nature of the exchange. As the students do not pay their tuition abroad, national agencies allocate their funds to higher education institutions, while respecting a maximum amount established by the European Commission for each country of destination.
Although the European Union wishes to reach its three-million student threshold for this academic year; the budget allocated to Erasmus has remained the same, meaning slightly smaller grants for individuals taking part in the scheme.