Brussels, 21 October 2002
Three million Erasmus students in 2010? Viviane Reding's call to action at the Erasmus Week
The European Commissioner for Education and Culture, Viviane Reding, has invited 30 past and present Erasmus students to Brussels next week to celebrate the programme's millionth student. These 30 young or not-so-young people come from all the countries taking part in the Erasmus programme (15 Member States, three EEA countries and 12 candidate countries). They will meet the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on 24 October during the European Council. The Commission intends to use this Erasmus Week (18 to 25 October) as a launching pad for its ideas for improving the programme and building on its success.
"As we celebrate a million Erasmus students, I should like to thank all those who have contributed to the programme's achievements, and especially the 1 800 participating universities in 30 countries, the university teachers and the national agency teams. Erasmus is a major success and a trail-blazer in European integration. But where do we go from here? I am sure there is a lot that can and must be improved, such as the programme's visibility and the size of grants. We have now reached the one-million mark. I aim to reach two million students by 2007 and three million in 2010", said Mrs Reding.
The Erasmus programme started in 1987 and provides funding to promote mobility of students and higher education teaching staff. It has become one of the best-known schemes in the educational field. In 15 years, the number of students receiving grants has risen from 3 000 to 120 000 per year (Cf. MEMO/02/190, 16 September 2002).
The Erasmus Student Charter
To raise the programme's profile, the Commission intends to launch the Erasmus Student Charter next week, with the help of the 30 "Erasmus ambassadors" (at a press conference at Erasmus House in Anderlecht at 10.30 on 24 October). The Charter is a new document in the form of a passport, setting out the rights and duties of Erasmus students, and the benefits of an Erasmus placement: full recognition from the home university of credits gained in the host university, free tuition, the right to retain grants from the home country, etc.
More grants thanks to partnership with private enterprise
To achieve the goal of three million students by 2010, not only must Erasmus gain recognition as an effective programme from an increasing number of students, but the number of grants must also be increased without cutting their value. One solution proposed by the Commissioner is for private enterprise to become a committed partner in the programme. Some Member States and regions, e.g. in France, Germany and Spain, are giving extra support to increase the number or value of Erasmus grants. Support is also received from banks and private foundations. This additional backing, public and private, needs to be better organised and more widespread. The Member States will therefore have to be encouraged to work along these lines. The Commission will take the initiative in encouraging such developments.
Exporting of public loans and grants
Since the present value of the Erasmus monthly grant 140 euros on average is intended to cover travelling expenses and differences in the cost of living, the amount of support finally received by each Erasmus student also depends on the existence of a system of public loans and grants which can be exported from one country to another. The Commission would like to see such "exportability" extended to all the countries participating in the programme. This is already the case in Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Iceland, Finland, France, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. If all the governments involved made arrangements for such exportable loans and grants, their students could then receive the minimum support needed to study at home and/or abroad. This would allow a large increase in the number of Erasmus students.
Opening up the universities internationally and creating inter-university networks
Finally, to help students to prepare for or supplement their Erasmus experience, and to allow those who remain at home to have a taste of Europe in the interests of their personal and professional development, Mrs Reding urged the universities to invite or appoint more foreign staff and to expand distance learning via Internet. By the end of the year, the Commission will launch an e-learning programme, whose aims will include helping schools with "electronic twinning" and universities with setting up virtual campuses. For the universities to become internationally open in this way, they must make an effort to improve the language teaching offered to students who want to try out the mobility option: inadequate linguistic preparation is today one of the obstacles to the development of Erasmus.
During Erasmus Week in Brussels, the Commissioner will have the following message, especially for young people: "Don't be hesitant about embarking on the Erasmus adventure (think of the "Auberge espagnole"). It is not only exciting, but also a shrewd career move! And at a time when you are wondering what the future holds professionally, consider the possibility of spending some time at a university in another European country. I should like to say to parents, governments and employers that investing in high-level education abroad is in the best interests of both the individual and society."
The names, personal stories and addresses of the 30 Erasmus ambassadors can be obtained from the press office.
Attached: programme of Erasmus Week in Brussels. The events are open to the press. The Socrates national agencies in charge of Erasmus are also arranging a programme of celebrations in the Member States. This is available on the website of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture:
30 Erasmus students in Brussels for the Erasmus Week
Tuesday 24 October