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Brussels, 6 June 2011

The Erasmus programme in 2009/10: the figures explained

The European Commission has today published new figures on the number of students, teachers and other staff in higher education who participated in the Erasmus programme in the academic year 2009/10. 213 266 European students and 37 776 staff in higher education received Erasmus funding to go abroad for studies, placements, teaching or training. This memo contains more information about Erasmus in this period, including a breakdown of the figures by country.

Erasmus enables students in higher education to spend between 3 and 12 months in another European country – either for studies or for a placement in a company or other organisation. Any student enrolled in a participating higher education institution in one of the 33 participating countries can benefit (EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey, and, from this summer, Switzerland). Students in short-cycle higher vocational education can also take advantage of support from the programme.

More than 200 000 Erasmus students for the first time

Since the inception of the programme, the number of students benefitting from an Erasmus grant has kept growing and exceeded the 200 000 mark for the first time during the 2009/2010 academic year.

Chart 1: Number of Erasmus students per year 1987/88 – 2009/10

The 213 266 students who went abroad to study or train in 2009/2010 represent an annual increase of 7.4% compared with the previous year (the equivalent year-on-year increase in 2008/09 was 8.7%).

The number of Erasmus students increased in all countries with the exception of Norway (-3.8%) and the Czech Republic and Portugal (unchanged). The highest increase in outgoing Erasmus students was noted in Cyprus (38%), followed by Malta and Estonia (25% and 24%). 16 countries experienced growth of over 7%.

Spain sent out most students (31 158), followed by France (30 213) and Germany (28 854). Spain was also the most popular host country with 35 389 incoming students, followed by France (26 141) and then the UK (22 650).

As in the previous year, a majority of countries sent out more students than they hosted. However, all the Nordic countries as well as the UK and Ireland are net importers of Erasmus students. For instance, the UK hosted twice as many students (22 700) as it sent abroad (11 723). The greatest balance between incoming and outgoing students was recorded in Austria followed by Greece and Slovenia.

2 852 higher education institutions sent students on mobility exchanges, an increase of 7.3% on the previous year.

Chart 2: Erasmus student mobility – relative change in the number of students per sending country between 2008/09 and 2009/10

The average monthly EU grant decreased between years, from €272 in the academic year 2008/2009 to €254 in 2009/10. As the chart below shows, the average EU grants were below the European average in ten countries.

Chart 3: Erasmus student mobility – average monthly EU grant levels

In 2009/10 61% of Erasmus students were female. In the same year, 257 students with special needs (disabilities) received additional funding to take part in Erasmus exchanges, a year-on-year increase of 21%.

Erasmus studies more popular

Out of 213 266 Erasmus students, 177 705 went abroad for studies, an increase of 5.7% on 2008/09. While numbers of students going abroad for studies decreased in 9 countries, 13 witnessed an above average increase. In relative terms the highest increase was in Cyprus and Estonia (over 30%). In Germany, interest in studying abroad with Erasmus studies picked up again in 2009/10 (+2.7%) after stagnating figures in 2008/09.

Spain was the country sending out most students for studies (27 448), followed by France (24 426) and Germany (24 029). Spain also remained the most popular destination for studies abroad, hosting 29 328 Erasmus students (+4.1%), followed by France (22 033), and Germany (17 927).

Social sciences, business studies and law were the most popular subject areas for Erasmus students (34.6%), followed by humanities and arts (32.9%) - an increase of almost 50% on 2008/09 - and engineering, manufacturing and construction (12.5%).

On average, students went abroad to study for just over 6.4 months and the average grant was €236 (a decrease of 6.7% on the previous year).

Erasmus placements (traineeships) increasingly popular

Since 2007, Erasmus has offered students the opportunity to go abroad to gain work experience companies or other organisations. In 2009/10 every sixth Erasmus student - 35 561 out of 213 266 - chose this option, which is an increase of 17.3% on the previous year.

As with the previous year, France was the country sending the most students on Erasmus placements (5 787), followed by Germany (4 825) and Spain (3 710). Spain remained the most popular destination for Erasmus placements, hosting 6 061 students, followed by the UK (5 827) and Germany (4 582).

The largest group of students on Erasmus placements were enrolled in humanities and arts (31%) followed by social sciences, business and law (27%) and health and welfare (10%).

The average duration of an Erasmus placement was 4.2 months and students received on average a monthly EU grant of €386 (down from €433 in 2008/09).

A number of placement consortia, grouping a number of higher education institutions to facilitate placements, were funded in 13 participating countries. In 2009/10 placement consortia organised 15.4% of student placements.

Erasmus intensive language courses continue to be popular

Erasmus offers specialised courses in the EU’s less widely used and less frequently taught languages to help students prepare for their studies or placements abroad. Courses are organised in the countries where these languages are officially used. They are not offered for the most widely taught languages such as English, German, French and Spanish (Castilian).

In 2009/10, 361 courses (up from 326 in the previous year) were organised in 22 countries for a total of 5 386 Erasmus students (up 3.4%). The most popular destination to study languages were Italy, Belgium (the Flemish Community) and Portugal. The highest share of incoming students participating in a language course was in Slovenia where 20.4% of all incoming Erasmus students took part, followed by Estonia (14.6%) and Iceland (12.8%).

Erasmus staff mobility (teaching assignments and staff training)

In the academic year 2009/10, Erasmus supported 37 776 exchanges of teaching and non-teaching staff from higher education institutions, to teach or receive training abroad. This represents an annual increase of 3.8% which is a considerably lower increase than in the previous year (13.6%).

The top sending countries were Poland (4 443 exchanges), followed by Spain (3 797) and Germany (3 385). The top destination for staff mobility in 2009/10 was Germany (3 775), followed by Spain (3 613) and Italy (3 368). Outbound and inbound staff exchanges are generally much more balanced than student exchanges.

53% of the staff participating in Erasmus in 2009/10 were male. Five staff with special needs received additional funding to participate in Erasmus exchanges. The average duration of such mobility periods was 5.8 days and the average grant was €672 (down from €684 in 2008/09).

A total of 2154 higher education institutions participated in staff mobility activities, which is an increase of 9% on the previous year.

Teaching assignments show slight growth

Erasmus enables staff from higher education institutions and companies to spend a teaching period of between one day – or at least five teaching hours – and six weeks at a higher education institution in another country.

The number of teachers benefiting from this type of mobility through Erasmus has been steadily increasing and since its introduction in 1997/98 over 250 000 staff exchanges have been funded. Out of the 37 776 staff exchanges supported in 2009/10, 29 031 were teaching assignments (+1.5% on the previous year). 28 862 exchanges were undertaken by teachers from higher education institutions whereas 259 staff from companies were invited to come and teach at partner institutions.

The top sending country was Poland with 2 967 teaching assignments supported, followed by Spain (2 914) and Germany (2 850). As in previous years the most popular destination for teaching assignments was Germany (2 947), followed by Italy (2 698) and Spain (2 686).

Teachers were most mobile in the following subject areas: humanities and arts (32%); social sciences, business and law (22%); engineering, manufacturing and construction (14%). On average teachers spent 5.6 days abroad for teaching and the average number of teaching hours is 8.5 per exchange.

Staff training still gaining popularity

Erasmus also enables staff of higher education institutions to undertake training in a company or at a higher education institution in another country. This training can last between one and six weeks.

Support for mobility for staff training was introduced in 2007 and has since seen a steep growth in popularity. Out of the 37 776 staff exchanges supported in 2009/10, 8 745 were staff training periods, 12.5% more than in the previous year. These exchanges are for academic and non-academic staff alike, including those working in central administrations and support services.

Poland sent out the highest number of staff for training (1 476) followed by Spain (883) and Finland (656). The UK was the most popular destination (969 incoming exchanges) followed by Spain (927) and Germany (828). Staff training periods lasted on average 6.3 days. More female than male staff participated in staff training (68%) whereas their share was only 41% in teaching assignments.

Erasmus intensive programmes continue to grow in numbers

Aside from individual mobility, Erasmus offers teaching staff and students from different countries the possibility to come together for short thematic study programmes of between ten days and six weeks. The EU finances the organisation of such intensive programmes and travel and subsistence for participants.

In the academic year 2009/10, 384 Erasmus intensive programmes were organised (up from 319 in the previous year). 12 606 students (both international and national students) and 4 378 teachers participated (+25.3%).

The countries organising the highest number of intensive programmes were Italy with 47 courses followed by Germany (37) and France (31). The most popular subject areas were social sciences, business and law (26%); science, engineering, manufacturing and construction (18%). Courses in mathematics and computing, and humanities and arts held a 15% share each. The average duration of these programmes was just over 12 days.

How does a university qualify to participate in the Erasmus programme?

A university or other higher education institution in one of the participating countries must sign up to a number of principles and other obligations set out in the Erasmus University Charter before they can participate in Erasmus mobility or co-operation projects. For instance, the host institution must not charge tuition fees for incoming Erasmus students; and full recognition of satisfactorily completed courses or placements should be awarded to students upon return to their home institution. Great emphasis is also placed on ensuring high quality of all mobility activities.

How much does the EU spend through the Erasmus programme?

Over the current budgetary period (2007-13) the EU is spending around €3.1 billion on the Erasmus programme. In 2009/10 the total budget was €460 million of which €415 million was spent on mobility actions.

Most of the Erasmus budget is managed by agencies in the participating countries (Lifelong Learning Programme national agencies). Over 90% of the total Erasmus budget is invested in student and staff mobility and managed by the national agencies. Erasmus also supports multilateral projects and networks which account for around 4% of the budget. These are managed centrally by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in Brussels.

The budget for the future programme generation from 2014 is not known yet.

The table below shows the total Erasmus funds spent on student and staff mobility by year.

Table 1: Erasmus decentralised funds allocated to National Agencies


Annual Erasmus

budget dedicated

to student and staff mobility in million EUR

Change, year-on-year















































































(*) estimation

How are Erasmus funds allocated at national level?

The overall Erasmus budget for student and staff mobility is allocated to different countries on the basis of the following factors:

  • Population: number of students, graduates and teachers in higher education (level 5-6 of the International standard classification of education, ISCED). Data is provided by Eurostat.

  • Cost of living and distance between capital cities: used as corrective factors, applied to the population factor.

  • Past performance indicator: calculated on the basis of the number of outgoing staff and students in the past (using the latest available data).

How can students and staff apply for Erasmus grants?

The Erasmus programme is open to all students studying at higher education institutions holding an Erasmus University Charter in 33 participating countries (27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, Croatia and, from this summer, Switzerland).

The first step in applying for an Erasmus study period or placement and a grant is to contact the international relations office at the home institution and to fill in a learning agreement for Erasmus studies or a training agreement for Erasmus placements. These agreements need to be approved and signed by the home institution as well as the host institution or company abroad.

These documents set out the programme to be followed by the student during his/her study period or placement abroad and have to be approved by the sending and host institutions or host company as well as the student him/herself. It both simplifies and ensures full academic recognition from the home institution for work satisfactorily completed during the Erasmus period.

Erasmus studies: Those who want to carry out part of their studies abroad must be at least in their second year at a higher education institution. Most of Europe’s higher education institutions – more than 4 000 – have already signed up to it.

Erasmus placements: students can take up an Erasmus placement from the first year of higher education studies up until they graduate.

Periods abroad – both for studies and for placements – can last from 3 to 12 months each, or a combined total of 24 months. For students in short-cycle higher vocational education the minimum duration for placements is two months (from 2010 onwards).

Erasmus grants are designed to cover part of the additional costs of living abroad and travel. Erasmus students don't need to pay tuition fees at their host institution abroad.

Erasmus for staff: Erasmus also enables higher education teaching staff and those employed in private businesses to go abroad to teach for one day up to six weeks. Likewise, any academic and non-academic higher education member of staff may receive training abroad for a period of five days to six weeks. The application procedure for teaching assignments and staff training is the same as for students but teaching staff are required to submit a teaching programme to their home institution or enterprise agreed by the host institution. Staff wishing to apply for an Erasmus training grant must similarly have their training programme agreed by their home institution and the host institution or enterprise.

More information on who is eligible for applying for Erasmus grant and on the application procedure is available from

How is the monthly EU grant determined?

In each country a national agency allocates the funds at their disposal to higher education institutions. The agency can decide to give higher grants to fewer students (as is the case, for example, in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Turkey) or to give lower grants to more students (as for example in France and Italy), but has to respect a ceiling for grants set by the European Commission for every country of destination (see 'Table 1b: Erasmus – Student Mobility Subsistence - maximum rates per host country'

The national agency allocates funds to applying institutions based on factors such as requested funds or past performance. The institution can then decide on the exact monthly grant it pays out to students (and the weekly or daily rate to staff) within a range set by the national agency, which differs from country to country.

The monthly grant depends on the destination country and the type of mobility applied for. For instance, there has been a tendency to give higher grants for placements than for studies abroad.

There are various sources of non-EU co-financing from national, regional and local sources that can complement the Erasmus grant given by the European Union.

In 2009/10, the average monthly EU grant ranged from €145 for Croatian students to €861 for students from Liechtenstein. Across all countries the average grant was €254.

What is Erasmus Mundus?

The Erasmus Mundus programme is a sister programme, but independent, from the traditional Erasmus programme. Since its launch in 2004, more than 23 000 students from other parts of the world have studied at higher education institutions in Europe. With a budget of over €214 million annually (budget in 2010), the key aim of Erasmus Mundus is to support academic excellence, foster co-operation with countries outside the EU and enhance the attractiveness of Europe's higher education. Like the Erasmus programme, Erasmus Mundus offers financial support for institutions and scholarships for individuals taking part in:

  • European joint masters and doctorates (including scholarships)

  • Partnerships with non-European higher education institutions and scholarships for students and academics

  • Projects to promote European higher education worldwide

For more information:

Why is the programme called Erasmus?

The Erasmus programme is named after the philosopher, theologian and humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536). Erasmus, who lived through the Reformation period, was an opponent of dogmatism.

Erasmus lived and worked in several parts of Europe, in quest of the knowledge, experience and insights which only such contacts with other countries could bring. By leaving his fortune to the University of Basel, he became a precursor of mobility grants. The acronym ERASMUS may also be read as EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

For more information: See also IP/11/675

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