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IP/09/301

Brussels, 20 February 2009

Where would European higher education be without the Erasmus programme?

According to a recent study the EU's Erasmus programme for mobility and cooperation in higher education has been a strong driving force in shaping the landscape of higher education in Europe. The programme, which is particularly popular for its student mobility activities, has contributed to improving, opening up and modernising both higher education institutions and education policies. For the vast majority of them, participation in Erasmus has led to innovation in core activity areas such as teaching and learning methods, recognition of study periods, support services for students, research activities, business cooperation as well as institutional management.

Ján Figel', European Commissioner with responsibility for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, said: "The Erasmus programme has been the grandfather of some of the biggest reform initiatives in higher education in Europe today. Erasmus paved the way for the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System—ECTS—and the 'Bologna process', in which 46 European countries have agreed to establish a European Higher Education Area by 2010. This study reinforces my view that Erasmus, which celebrates its 22 nd anniversary this year, should be further expanded in the future as a key vehicle for modernising higher education and promoting mobility opportunities for students."

The study focused on the impact of Erasmus since its inception in 1987. It is based on a survey to which around 750 institutions' top management and more than 1,800 Erasmus coordinators both at international offices and faculties responded. Its main findings focus on the programme's impact on two levels: policies and institutions.

Erasmus and higher education policy

The Erasmus programme has played a leading role in the internationalisation of national, European and international higher education. Erasmus was the driving force behind the Bologna Process and many actions have been directly drawn from it, such as easily readable and comparable degrees, the establishment of a credit system, quality assurance and the application of joint and double degrees. The programme continues to have an impact on policy in the field of education, for example, by supporting projects to explore new, more sophisticated ways to enhance the transparency of the missions and performances of higher education institutions.


Erasmus and higher education institutions

In addition to the positive impact on students, such as upgraded skills and enhanced employability, which have already been highlighted in previous studies, the institutional impact of Erasmus is considered to be strong, particularly in larger institutions and in the new EU Member States. Student and staff mobility have stimulated the introduction of international offices and support services for mobile but also home students. Erasmus has also had a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning as the mobility of international students and teachers has led to the introduction of new teaching methods and exchange of good practices. It has also triggered the modernisation and internationalisation of university curricula as well as the transparency and transferability of qualifications such as the generalised use of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). This is attested to by more than 85 % of the central Erasmus coordinators consulted.

In the area of research, Erasmus has encouraged active participation in international projects, attendance at conferences and tendering for international projects, all of which has strengthened excellence and competition in the field. In addition, benchmarking and quality standards have become common practice.

An unexpected benefit was that, according to 30 % of the participating institutions, results were also achieved in the field of closer cooperation between universities and businesses.

For almost 90 % of the central Erasmus coordinators, regular progress was made on giving their institution a more international profile, and nearly 50 % reported a high or very high impact when it comes to making the management of higher education institutions more professional. 92 % of the higher management agreed that their institution's participation in Erasmus supported institutional changes and modernisation.

To find out more:

Executive summary and full study:

The Impact of Erasmus on European Higher Education: Quality, Openness and Internationalisation

European Commission:

The Erasmus programme

European Commission:

European agenda for the modernisation of higher education


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