Brussels, 8 July 2013
Erasmus programme in 2011-12: the figures explained
The European Commission has today published new figures1 on the number of students, teachers and other staff in higher education who benefitted from the Erasmus programme in the 2011-12 academic year (IP/13/657). 252 827 European students and 46 527 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, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey). Students in short-cycle higher vocational education can also take advantage of support from the programme.
New record: more than 250 000 Erasmus students in a year
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 2009-10 and the 252 827 students who went abroad to study or train in 2011-12 represent a new record and annual increase of 9% compared with the previous year (the equivalent year-on-year increase in 2010-11 was 8.5%).
Chart 1: Number of Erasmus students per year 1987/88- 2011/12
Chart 2: Erasmus student mobility – relative change in the number of students per sending country between 2010-11 and 2011-12
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 (+62%), which joined the programme in 2009-10. It was followed by Denmark (+20%), Slovenia and Turkey (+17% each). 11 countries experienced a growth above the average of 8.3%.
Three countries, Cyprus, Iceland and Romania, saw a decrease in Erasmus student numbers (between -0.6% and -2.7%) compared with the previous year.
Spain sent out the most Erasmus students for both studies and placements (39 545), followed by Germany (33 363) and France (33 269).
Spain was also the most popular destination country with 39 300 incoming students, followed by France (28 964) and Germany (27 872). The United Kingdom hosted almost twice as many students (25 760) as it sent abroad (13 662).
3 189 higher education institutions sent students on exchanges, an increase of 5% on the previous year.
Chart 3: Erasmus student mobility - average monthly EU grant levels
The average monthly EU grant remained at around the same level (€252) as the previous year (€250). The chart above shows the monthly average grant for out-bound students. The Commission sets a ceiling for the monthly student grant, based on living costs in each receiving country; but the precise level of the grant in each case is set by the national agencies and higher education institutions which manage the programme.
In 2011-12, 336 students with special needs or disabilities received additional funding to take part in Erasmus exchanges, compared with 254 students in 2010-11.
7.5% increase for Erasmus studies
Erasmus offers students the possibility to spend part of their course (at Bachelor, Master or Doctoral level, including short-cycles) studying at a higher education institution in another country for 3 to 12 months.
In 2011-12, out of a total of 252 827 Erasmus students, 204 744 went abroad for studies, an increase of 7.5% on 2010-11. The numbers going abroad for studies decreased in six countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Romania), while 11 witnessed an above average increase. Switzerland, which joined the programme in 2011-12, sent out 2 514 students for studies.
Spain sent out most students for studies (34 103), followed by Germany (27 593) and France (25 924). Spain remained the most popular destination for studies abroad, hosting 30 580 Erasmus students, followed by France (23 173), and Germany (19 120).
Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Spain sent out the most students compared with the size of their student population.
On average, students went abroad to study for 6.3 months and the average grant was €234 (against €226 in the previous year).
Social sciences, business studies and law were the most popular subject areas for Erasmus students (41.4%), followed by humanities and arts (21.9%), then engineering, manufacturing and construction (15.1%).
18% increase in Erasmus job placements (traineeships)
Since 2007, Erasmus has offered students the opportunity to go abroad to gain work experience in companies or other organisations. In 2011-12 one-in-five Erasmus students – 48 083 out of 252 827 – chose this option, an increase of 18% on the previous year. The average duration of a placement was 4.3 months and students received a monthly EU grant of €361 on average (down from €366 in 2010-11).
As in recent years, France was the country sending the most students on Erasmus placements (7 345), followed by Germany (5 770) and Spain (5 442). Spain was the most popular destination for Erasmus placements, hosting 7 807 students, followed by United Kingdom (7 736) and Germany (6 655).
To support work placements abroad, a higher education institution can create a consortium for placements. These consortia comprise higher education institutions and other organisations, such as companies or associations. 93 placement consortia were funded in 12 countries (BG, CZ, DE, GR, ES, FR, IT, NL, AT, PL, PT, FI). These consortia organised over 15% of all work placements abroad under Erasmus in 2011-12.
The largest group of students on Erasmus placements came from social sciences, business and law background (31.9%), followed by engineering, manufacturing and construction (17.1%), and humanities and arts students (16.9%).
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 2011-12?
Out of a total student population of more than 24 million in the 33 participating countries, around 1% of them received Erasmus student grants in 2011/12.
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 these, 68% are at bachelor level, 28% at master level, 1% at doctoral level, and 3% in short-cycle studies.
Around 10% of the total student population have spent or are spending part or all of their studies abroad with the support of Erasmus or other public and private means.
At a meeting in Bucharest (Romania) on 26-27 April 2012 (IP/12/394), higher education Ministers from 47 European countries adopted the Bologna Mobility Strategy which states that, by 2020, 20% of European higher education graduates should have spent part of their studies abroad. The European Union adopted the same benchmark 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 by Erasmus has grown significantly since their launch. Some 435 courses (up from 392 in the previous year: +11%) were organised in 2011-12 in 26 countries for a total of 6 631 Erasmus students (+13%).
The most popular destinations for EILCs were Italy, Portugal, Belgium (Flemish Community), Turkey and Sweden. The highest share of incoming students participating in a language course was in Slovenia where 19.1% of all incoming Erasmus students took part, followed by Croatia (12.7%). Iceland, Romania, Greece and Estonia had participation rates between 10 and 11%.
Erasmus staff mobility (teaching assignments and staff training)
Erasmus also enables higher education teaching staff and people employed in companies to go abroad to teach, from one day up to six weeks. Likewise, any academic and non-academic member of staff in a higher education institution may receive training abroad for a period of five days to six weeks.
In the 2011-12 academic year, Erasmus supported 46 527 teaching and non-teaching staff from higher education institutions to teach or receive training abroad. This represents an annual increase of 8.6%.
The top sending countries were Poland (6 312), followed by Spain
50.5% of the staff participating in Erasmus in 2011-12 were male. 16 staff with special needs received additional funding to participate in Erasmus exchanges (against 13 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 €713 (up from €662 in 2010-11).
A total of 2 336 higher education institutions participated in staff mobility activities, an increase of 3.6% on the previous year.
Teaching assignments still gaining popularity
Erasmus enables higher education teachers and company staff 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 supported in this way by Erasmus has steadily increased, with more than 300 000 staff exchanges funded since its introduction in 1997-98,. Out of the 46 527 staff exchanges supported in 2011-12, 33 323 were teaching assignments (+5.4% on the previous year).
The top sending country was Poland with 3 994 teaching assignments supported, followed by Spain (3 256) and Germany (3 110). The most popular destinations for teaching assignments were Spain (3 258), Germany (3 149) and Italy (2 903).
The most mobile teachers were from the following subject areas: humanities and arts (32%); social sciences, business and law (22%); engineering, manufacturing and construction (14%). Teachers spent 5.5 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 €686, representing a 6.3% increase on the previous year (€645).
Some 422 staff teaching assignments were undertaken by staff from companies who were invited to teach at higher education institutions in other European countries (+19% on the previous year).
Staff training shows significant growth
Since its introduction in 2007, support for staff training has seen a steep rise in popularity. Out of the 46 527 staff exchanges supported in 2011-12, 13 204 were for staff training (+18% on the previous year). These exchanges are for academic and non-academic staff alike, including those working in administration and support services.
3 336 higher education staff trained in companies abroad in 2011-12 (+13.2% on the previous year).
Poland sent out the highest number of staff for training (2 318) followed by Spain
Staff training periods lasted 6.1 days on average. More female than male staff participated in staff training (69.5%), while women represented 42.9% of teaching assignments.
Erasmus intensive programmes continue to grow in numbers
Erasmus offers teaching staff and students the opportunity to attend 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 60 courses (13% of the total), followed by Germany (43) and France (35). The most popular subject areas were social sciences, business and law (26%); engineering, manufacturing and construction (18%). Intensive programmes in mathematics and computing, and humanities and arts, each accounted for a 15% share. The average duration of the intensive programmes was 11.5 days.
462 Erasmus intensive programmes were organised in 2011-12 (up from 404 in the previous year), an increase of 14%. 16 806 students (both international and national students) and 5 663 teachers participated.
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 between 1 and 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. (ECTS allocates credit points for each part of a study programme, based on the student workload and specified learning outcomes. This makes it more straightforward for students to accumulate credits earned under different programmes, and simplifies the recognition of study abroad in their home institution).
The number of applications for university cooperation projects has grown year-on-year. Some 250 applications were submitted in 2012 (up from 197 in 2011). Of these, 57 were selected for funding, which represents a 22.8% success rate on average. The UK submitted the highest number of proposals (35), followed by Belgium (25) and Finland (24). Belgium was the most successful in terms of applications approved with 11 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 for the Erasmus programme. In 2011-12 the total budget was around €494 million, of which around €473 million was used to support student and staff mobility.
Most of the Erasmus budget is managed by national agencies in the participating countries. Erasmus also supports multilateral projects and networks which account for around €20 million a year (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
How are Erasmus funds allocated at national level?
The Erasmus budget is divided between the participating countries on the basis of the following factors:
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 or higher education institutions can increase the monthly grant for students from low-income backgrounds.
In 2011-12, the average monthly EU grant for student mobility ranged from
How can students and staff apply for Erasmus grants?
The Erasmus programme is open any student studying at a higher education institution which has signed up to the Erasmus University Charter in a participating country. Most of Europe’s higher education institutions – nearly 5 000 – 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 your home institution and to fill in a learning agreement for Erasmus studies or a training agreement for an Erasmus placement. These documents set out the programme to be followed by the student during her/his study period or placement and have to be approved by the sending and host institutions or host company, as well as by 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 at least in 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.
Duration: 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, which must be 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.
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.
ERASMUS may also be read as an acronym for EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, as in the very first decision establishing the programme (Council Decision 87/327/EEC of 15 June 1987 adopting the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students).
For more information
See also IP/13/657
More about the Erasmus programme
The statistics below concern the Erasmus programme alone. They do not include other European programmes for higher education, such as the Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes, which pursue different cooperation objectives with different parts of the world.