Brussels, 15 November 2001
30 countries, 1,800 universities, 120,000 students to take part in the Erasmus programme this year
At the beginning of a new academic year, the European Commission announced the figures of the activities that will take place around Europe in 2001/02 under the Erasmus programme. Thus, it is foreseen that around 120,000 university students will carry out a recognised period of study in another European country and that more than 10,000 university professors will spend a short teaching period in another university. Erasmus is the "Higher Education" chapter of SOCRATES, the European programme in the field of education, which since 1997 is also open to the associated countries.
" I am very proud of the great success of Erasmus. The "Erasmus experience" not only improves the academic and cultural skills of Europeans, but also their transnational employability. Many former ERASMUS students tend to succeed in finding jobs linked to the use of skills acquired or reinforced during the study period abroad such as language skills, professional knowledge of the host country, first hand knowledge of the host culture and society. Indeed about a third of Erasmus students were offered employment abroad and about one fifth were employed abroad" Education Commissioner Viviane Reding said.
The financial package for the Erasmus activities 2001/02 will be of about 150 million Euro, 80% of which will be reserved to mobility grants. The total budget for the second phase of the Socrates programme amounts to 1,850 million Euro for the period 2000-2006, 51 % of which will be absorbed by the Erasmus action. Launched in 1987 with a few universities, Erasmus has enabled to date approximately 850,000 students to spend a study period abroad, contributing thereby to the building of a genuine European citizenship. Next year the one millionth Erasmus student will be celebrated.
120 000 participating students
1,826 universities or higher education institutions will take part in the programme in 2001/2002. Approximately 120,000 students will spend between 6 and 12 months abroad, with a grant covering part of their "mobility costs" such as travel, different living costs, etc. The most active countries in absolute terms will be France, Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy (see table 1), but in relative terms (i. e. the percentage of Erasmus students as compared with the national student population) some of the "smaller" countries Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Portugal - have shown a remarkable dynamism.
The fields of study in which most student exchanges occur are Business (18 %), Languages and Philology (14 %), Engineering and Technology Sciences (12 %) and Social Sciences (10 %)
To guarantee the recognition of Erasmus studies abroad, over 1,000 Higher Education institutions have adopted the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) This consists of a common "scale" quantifying workload for students (hours of lectures, personal studying, laboratories, etc, for a total of 60 credits per year). Conceived and launched for the purpose of Erasmus, the system of academic credits is now being adopted -or it is under adoption- in several European Countries (recently, Italy and Germany) as a national system for organising study cycles.
As far as professors are concerned, it is foreseen that 10,000 will benefit from short-term assignments (generally, one week) to give lectures which are fully integrated in the study programme of the host institution. The most active "sending" countries are Germany, Spain and France and the most represented fields of studies are Engineering/Technology (14%), Languages (13%), Social Sciences (10%) and Business (10%) .
332 European innovative projects
However, Erasmus is not only an "exchange" programme: every year, European Universities (as well as Arts Academies, Fachhochschulen, etc) may join their efforts and design together study programmes, e.g. European modules, curricula, Masters, Intensive programmes, in every field of study. In 2001/2002 there will be 120 new study programmes and 220 intensive programmes. The 332 new European projects, have been selected on the basis of their innovative approach, on the use of new technologies and on the link with the socio-economic world. Among them, a "Master in Cultural Policies and Management" coordinated by the LUISS University (Rome) with 4 partners; a summer University on "management of e-commerce", organised by the Polytechnics of Pirkanmaan (Finland); a "European Doctorate in Peace Studies" coordinated by the University of Bilbao, with 7 other universities.
In addition, Erasmus will support the activities of 26 "Thematic networks" between faculties and university departments, professional associations, research centres, which constitute large "fora of reflexion" on a specific subject area or on specific themes. Together with 18 existing networks that have been renewed, 8 new Thematic networks are launched this year in different fields of study (from History to Architecture to Computer Sciences).
Towards a European higher education area
Encouraging statistics exist for the participation of the associated countries, which are taking part in the programme in the context of their pre-accession strategies : 313 establishments will benefit from Socrates/Erasmus in 2001/02. Their activities will include the exchanges of some 10,000 students and 1,000 teachers; the organisation of 25 intensive programmes; the participation in 135 joint study programmes as well as the adoption of ECTS by 177 Higher Education institutions.
Erasmus students seem to reflect the population of University students in general and do not seem to belong to upper socio-economic classes (53% of interviewed Erasmus students qualified their parents' income as average or below average). Moreover, the choice of studying abroad in many cases does not depend on economic considerations but more on factors such as motivation, access to information and the recognition and encouragement of such an experience within the family of the student.
The Erasmus action is contributing to the development of the "European Higher Education Area", the big initiative launched in 1999 with the "Bologna declaration" of 31 Ministers for Education and re-enforced this year in Prague. Its objective is the establishment, by 2010, of a pan-European area based on a common architecture for academic degrees studies (two-cycles study programmes and credit systems in all Countries); on common frameworks for transparency and comparability of titles; on quality and european dimension in higher education; on mobility of students and teachers. For more information:
On Erasmus : http://ec.europa.eu/education/erasmus.html
On Higher Education in Europe and on the "European Higher Education Area": http://ec.europa.eu/education/higher.html
TABLE ON STUDENT MOBILITY 2001/02 : students by home and host country
This mainly happens because many universities prefer to send a smaller number of students with a higher grant