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Brussels, 2nd December 1997

Tenth anniversary celebrations for Erasmus

Erasmus is celebrating its 10th anniversary on 3 December. Launched in 1987, this programme for European cooperation in higher education has gone from strength to strength. To mark its first 10 years, Erasmus students, academic staff and European authorities will meet to look back and look ahead during an evening of personal reminiscences, proposals and music organized by the Erasmus Students Network with the support of the European Commission.

During these first 10 years Erasmus has given more than 500,000 students (3,000 in 1987, 180,000 in 1997) and tens of thousands of teaching staff the opportunity to spend time in another European country, as well as allowing the development of a number of programmes or joint curricula in all academic disciplines.

Originally designed as an exchange scheme for university students, Erasmus has now become the means of "Europeanization" in higher education: apart from student mobility, the programme supports several other lines of action, from the mobility of academic staff and the organization of intensive study courses to the development of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), designed to ensure the academic recognition of studies undertaken abroad. Erasmus now also provides support for about 30 inter-university 'thematic networks', which aim to develop the European dimension of the disciplines or subject areas concerned.

Limited in 1987 to the then 12 members of the European Communities, the programme now covers 18 countries (the EU 15 plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein); from next year, it will be open to the participation of Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Cyprus in the framework of their strategy of pre-accession to the EU.

In 1995, Erasmus was incorporated into the Socrates programme (covering European cooperation in all aspects of education); various administrative procedures were rationalized this year, but the programme's reputation remains unchanged. As evidence of its success and the continued interest in Erasmus, some 1,500 universities and other higher education institutions are taking part in the programme in the 1997/98 academic year.

Bringing students to Europe, bringing Europe to all students - this is Erasmus's contribution today to the development of tomorrow's European citizenship.

The 10th anniversary celebrations are being held as part of a series of working meetings and debates organized by the Commission (DG XXII: Education, Training, Youth) and attended by Member State representatives, experts, academic staff and students. Their purpose is to assess European cooperation programmes in higher education and examine the broader perspective in view of future initiatives, on the basis of the new Commission communication "Towards a Europe of Knowledge" which was recently presented to the Council of Education Ministers by Commissioner Edith Cresson, responsible for research, innovation, education, training and youth.

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