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Brussels, 8 May 2012

The Erasmus programme in 2010-11: the figures explained

The European Commission has today published new figures on the number of students, teachers and other staff in higher education who benefitted from the Erasmus programme in the 2010-11 academic year (IP/12/454). 231 410 European students and 42 813 staff in higher education received Erasmus funding to go abroad for studies, job placements, teaching or training.

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 Erasmus countries can benefit (EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey, and, from 2011-12, Switzerland). Students in short-cycle higher vocational education can also take advantage of support from the programme.

New record: more than 230 000 Erasmus students

Since the inception of the programme, the number of students benefitting from an Erasmus grant has continued to grow. It exceeded 200 000 for the first time in 2009-2010 and the 231 410 students who went abroad to study or train in 2010-11 represent a new record and annual increase of 8.5% compared with the previous year (the equivalent year-on-year increase in 2009-10 was 7.4%).

Chart 1: Number of Erasmus students per year 1987-88- 2010-11

Chart 2: Erasmus student mobility – relative change in the number of students per sending country between 2009-10 and 2010-11

As shown in Chart 2, the number of Erasmus students increased in almost all countries. The highest increase in out-bound students was noted in Croatia (132%), followed by Liechtenstein (52%) and Cyprus (22%). 19 countries experienced growth above the average of 8.5%.

One country, Luxembourg, saw a decrease in Erasmus students (-5.8%). However, it remains the country sending the highest number of students abroad as proportion of the national student population.

Erasmus champions

Spain sent out most students for both studies and placements (36 183), followed by France (31 747) and Germany (30 274).

Spain was also the most popular destination country with 37 432 incoming students, followed by France (27 721) and then Germany (24 734). The United Kingdom hosted twice as many students (24 474) as it sent abroad (12 833). A majority of countries sent out more students than they hosted. The best balance between incoming and out-bound students was recorded in Slovenia, followed by Austria, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

3 041 higher education institutions sent students on mobility exchanges, an increase of 6.6% on the previous year.

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

The average monthly EU grant decreased from €254 in 2009-10 to €250 in 2010-11. This enabled more students to benefit compared to the previous year. The above chart shows the monthly average grant for out-bound students from these countries. The Commission sets a ceiling for the monthly student grant in each country; the precise level in each case is set by the national agencies and higher education institutions which manage the programme.

In 2010-11, 254 students with special needs (disabilities) received additional funding to take part in Erasmus exchanges, compared with 257 students in 2009-10.

7.2% increase for Erasmus studies

Erasmus offers students the possibility of spending part of their degree studying at another higher education institution for 3 to 12 months abroad.

Out of 231 410 Erasmus students, 190 498 went abroad for studies, an increase of 7.2% on 2009-10. The numbers going abroad for studies decreased in 3 countries (Luxembourg, Hungary and Poland) while 16 witnessed an above average increase. In relative terms the highest increase on 2009-10 figures was in Croatia (96.6%), followed by Liechtenstein (84.2%) and Cyprus (25.1%).

Spain sent out most students for studies (31 427), followed by France (25 789) and Germany (25 178). Spain remained the most popular destination for studies abroad, hosting 30 580 Erasmus students (+ 4.3%), followed by France (23 173, +5.2%), and Germany (19 120, +6.6%).

On average, students went abroad to study for just over 6.4 months and the average grant was €226 (against €230 in the previous year).

Social sciences, business studies and law were the most popular subject areas for Erasmus students (34.7%), followed by humanities and arts (31.5%) and engineering, manufacturing and construction (12.6%).

15% increase in Erasmus job placements

Since 2007, Erasmus has offered students the opportunity to go abroad to gain work experience in companies or other organisations. In 2010-11 one-in-six Erasmus students – 40 912 out of 231 410 – chose this option, an increase of 15.1% on the previous year. The average duration of a placement was 4.3 months and students received on average a monthly EU grant of €366 (down from €386 in 2009-10).

As in recent years, France was the country sending the most students on Erasmus placements (5 958, with a 14.6% share), followed by Germany (5 096, 12.5% share) and Spain (4 756, 11.6%). The United Kingdom was the most popular destination for Erasmus placements, hosting 6 970 students (17% share), followed by Spain (6 852, 16.7% share) and Germany (5 614, that is 13.7%).

To support work placements abroad, a higher education institution can create a consortium for placements. These consortia comprise higher education institutions (HEIs) and other organisations, such as companies or associations. In 2010-11, some 74 placement consortia were funded in 13 countries. Placement consortia found opportunities for more than 14% of placement students.

The largest group of students on Erasmus placements came from a social sciences, business and law background (26.6%), overtaking humanities and arts (17.1%) which had the biggest share the previous academic year, and followed by agriculture and veterinary students (15.4%), whose number was eight times that of the previous year.

How many higher education (bachelor and master) students are there in the Erasmus participating countries? How many of them spent part or all of their studies abroad in 2010-11?

Out of a total student population of more than 22.5 million in the 32 participating countries, around 1% of them received Erasmus student mobility grants in 2010/11.1

Assuming that the average study duration in higher education institutions is 4-5 years (bachelor and master), it can be estimated that around 4.5% of all European students receive Erasmus grants at some stage during their higher education studies. Of those, 67% are at bachelor level, 28% at master level, 1% doctoral level, and 4% in short-cycle studies. Around 10% of students in total have spent or are spending part or all of their studies abroad with the support of Erasmus or other public and private means.

At their meeting in Bucharest (Romania) on 26-27 April 2012 (IP/12/394), higher education Ministers adopted the Bologna Mobility Strategy which states that, by 2020, 20% of European higher education graduates will have spent part of their studies abroad, in line with the European benchmark for higher education mobility adopted in November 2011.

Erasmus intensive language courses (EILC)

Erasmus offers specialised courses in the EU’s less widely used and less frequently taught languages to help students prepare for their studies or work 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).

The number of EILCs supported has grown significantly since their launch. Some 392 courses (up from 361 in the previous year: +8.6%) were organised in 2010-11 in 24 countries for a total of 5 872 Erasmus students (+9%).

The most popular destinations 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 18.9% of all incoming Erasmus students took part, followed by Iceland (13.9%) and Estonia (12.7%).

Erasmus staff mobility (teaching assignments and staff training)

Erasmus also enables higher education teaching staff and those employed in private businesses to go abroad to teach, from 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.

In the 2010-11 academic year, Erasmus supported 42 813 exchanges of teaching and non-teaching staff from higher education institutions, to teach or receive training abroad. This represents an annual increase of 13.3%, a considerably greater increase than in the previous year (3.8%).

The top sending countries were Poland (5 210), followed by Spain (4 506) and Germany (3 674). The top destination for staff mobility was Spain (4 304), followed by Germany (4 195) and Italy (3 703). Outbound and inbound staff exchanges are generally more balanced than student exchanges.

51.2% of the staff participating in Erasmus in 2010-11 were male. 13 staff with special needs received additional funding to participate in Erasmus exchanges (against 5 the previous year). The average duration of such mobility periods was 5.7 days and the average grant – on top of their regular salary – was €662 (down from €672 in 2009-10).

A total of 2 254 higher education institutions participated in staff mobility activities, an increase of 4.6% on the previous year.

Teaching assignments show significant growth

The number of teachers benefiting from funding for teaching assignments through Erasmus has steadily increased and since its introduction in 1997-98, over 300 000 staff exchanges have been funded. Out of the 42 813 staff exchanges supported in 2010-11, 31 617 were teaching assignments (+8.9% on the previous year).

Some 355 staff teaching assignments were undertaken by staff from companies who were invited to teach at higher education institutions in other European countries (+37% on the previous year).

The top sending country was Poland with 3 376 teaching assignments supported, followed by Spain (3 272) and Germany (3 006). As in previous years, the most popular destinations for teaching assignments were Germany (3 059), Spain (3 017) and Italy (2 859).

The most mobile teachers were from the following subject areas: humanities and arts (30.5%); social sciences, business and law (22.6%); engineering, manufacturing and construction (13.7%). Teachers spent 5.6 days abroad on average for teaching: a small but constant decrease has been observed since 2000-01, when the average was 6.9 days. The average grant per staff teaching assignment – on top of their regular salary – was 645, representing a slight decrease on the previous year (654).

Staff training still gaining popularity

Since its introduction in 2007, support for staff training has seen a steep increase in popularity. Out of the 42 813 staff exchanges supported in 2010-11, 11 196 were staff training periods (+28% on the previous year). These exchanges are for academic and non-academic staff alike, including those working in administration and support services.

2 728 higher education staff trained in companies abroad in 2010-11 (+48.6% on the previous year).

Poland sent out the highest number of staff for training (1 834) followed by Spain (1 234) and Finland (782). Spain was the most popular destination (1 287) followed by Germany (1 136) and the UK (1 121).

Staff training periods lasted 6.2 days on average. More female than male staff participated in staff training (68%), while they were only 42.1% women on teaching assignments.

Erasmus intensive programmes continue to grow in numbers

Erasmus offers teaching staff and students the possibility to come together for thematic study programmes, lasting from ten days to six weeks. The EU finances the organisation of these so-called intensive programmes, including travel and subsistence for participants.

The countries organising the highest number of these programmes were Italy with 51 courses (12.6% of the total number), followed by Germany (38) and France (32). 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 was just over 12 days.

404 Erasmus intensive programmes were organised in 2010-11 (up from 384 in the previous year). 13 963 students (both international and national students: +10.7%) and 5 010 teachers participated (+14.4%).

Erasmus university cooperation projects

The Erasmus programme also promotes the modernisation of European higher education through funding for joint projects. These projects, which run for up to 3 years, aim to encourage policy reforms through transnational cooperation among higher education institutions and other stakeholders. Applications are submitted once every calendar year and around €20 million is allocated annually to these projects.

Many of the projects funded under this part of the Erasmus programme have led to key policy developments. For example, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), was originally an Erasmus project before becoming a major tool to foster mobility that is now used throughout Europe. (ECTS allocates credit points to each part of a study programme, based on the student workload, to achieve specified learning outcomes. This makes it more straightforward for students to accumulate credits earned under different programmes, and simplifies the recognition of study abroad).

The number of applications for university cooperation projects has grown year-on-year. Some 197 applications were submitted in 2011 (up from 194 in 2010). Of these, 69 were selected for funding, which represents, a 35% success rate on average. The UK submitted the highest number of proposals (29), followed by Finland and Belgium (both21), Italy (18) and Spain (16). The UK was also the most successful in terms of applications approved with 17 projects accepted.How much does the EU spend on the Erasmus programme?

In the current budgetary period (2007-13) the EU has allocated €3.1 billion on the Erasmus programme. In 2010-11 the total budget was around €460 million, of which €435 million was dedicated to support for mobility.

Most of the Erasmus budget is managed by national agencies in the participating countries. Nearly 90% of the Erasmus budget is invested in student and staff mobility. 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 table below shows the total Erasmus funds spent on mobility by year.

Table 1: Erasmus decentralised funds allocated to National Agencies


Annual Erasmus budget dedicated

to student and staff mobility in million

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 outbound staff and students in the past (using the latest available data).

How is the monthly EU grant determined?

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

In each country, national agencies allocate the funds at their disposal to higher education institutions. A national 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 Lifelong Learning Programme Guide).

The national agency allocates funds to applying institutions based on factors such as amounts requested or past performance. The institution can then decide on the exact monthly grant it pays 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. For instance, there has been a tendency to give higher grants for job placements than for studies abroad.

Various sources of other co-financing from national, regional and local sources can complement the Erasmus grant given by the European Union.

The national agencies can increase the monthly grant for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

In 2010-11, the average monthly EU grant for student mobility ranged from
€133 for Spanish students to €653 for students from Cyprus. Across all countries, the average monthly grant was €250.

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, as from 2011-12, Switzerland). Most of Europe’s higher education institutions – more than 4 000 – have signed up to the Erasmus University Charter.

The first step in applying for an Erasmus study period or job placement 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 before the mobility period. This agreements, which set out the programme to be followed by the student during her/his study period or placement, need to be approved and signed by the home institution, the host institution or company abroad, as well as the student. This 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 in at least their second year at a higher education institution.

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

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.

Erasmus for staff: 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.

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

A university or other higher education institution 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. Emphasis is placed on ensuring high quality. The host institution must not charge tuition fees for incoming Erasmus students, and full recognition of satisfactorily completed courses or placements should automatically be awarded to students upon return to their home institution.

What is Erasmus Mundus?

The Erasmus Mundus programme is an international sister programme, although independent, from the traditional Erasmus programme. Since its launch in 2004, more than 25 000 students from other parts of the world have received Erasmus Mundus grants to study at higher education institutions in Europe. With a budget of over €220 million annually (2011), the 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. 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

The international dimension of Europe's education programmes will be integrated into the future 'Erasmus for All' programme (IP/11/1398).

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, is widely known as an opponent of dogmatism.

Erasmus lived and worked in several parts of Europe, in quest of the knowledge, experience and insights which contacts with other countries could bring.

The acronym ERASMUS may also be read as EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

For more information:

See also: Erasmus hits new record with 8.5% increase in student exchanges (IP/12/454)

More about the Erasmus programme

Erasmus facts and figures [brochure]

Erasmus statistics

1 :

In 2010, the total population in the EU-27 was around 18.5 million students.

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