This week Erasmus has been making headlines across the world after research showed that one in four of its former students met their life-long partner on the programme and more than 1 million ‘Erasmus babies’ have been born as a result. Obviously the student exchange has become an important part of European mobility and identity. But where are all the Brits? Whilst the UK is the prime destination for international students, our home students are noticeably reluctant to take up the opportunity to study or work abroad.
Whether due to our certain lacklustre for languages or the presumption that only linguists can do a year abroad, UK students are trailing behind their European peers on the take-up of Erasmus exchanges. Although the UK has seen steady increases in the number of students participating in the EU Erasmus scheme, they are still far behind their European counterparts.
France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain all send out more students, and are closer to hitting the European Higher Education Area’s target of 20% student mobility by 2020. In 2011-2012, a mere 13,662 UK students took part in the Erasmus scheme in either study or work placements, compared to 33,363 students from Germany, 33,269 from France and 29,545 from Spain. Unlike the rest of the EU, the UK receives more than twice the number of students it sends abroad.
What’s the fuss about Erasmus anyway? Aren’t UK students better off playing it safe studying and working in their mother tongue and culture?