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European Commission


Brussels, 10 July 2014

Erasmus 2012-13: the figures explained

The European Commission publishes new figures1 today on the number of students, teachers and other staff in higher education who benefitted from the Erasmus programme in the 2012-13 academic year (IP/14/821). 268 143 European students and 52 624 higher education staff received Erasmus grants to go abroad for studies, job placements, teaching or training.

Erasmus enables students 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 could 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.

Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, was launched in January 2014. It has a total budget of nearly €15 billion for 2014-2020, a 40% increase compared with the previous period. It will fund mobility opportunities for 4 million people including more than 2 million higher education students who will be able to study or gain work experience abroad, both within and beyond Europe.

New record: nearly 270 000 Erasmus students in a year

Since the launch of the programme 27 years ago, the number of students benefitting from an Erasmus grant each year has continued to grow. It exceeded 200 000 for the first time in 2009-10 and the 268 143 students who received EU funding to study or train abroad in 2012-13 represent a new record and an increase of 6% compared with the previous year (the equivalent year-on-year increase in 2011-12 was 9%).

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 Malta (40%), followed by Cyprus (36%), Croatia (27%) and Turkey (22%).

Six countries – Lithuania, Spain, Latvia, Iceland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein – saw a decrease in Erasmus student numbers compared with the previous year.

Erasmus champions

Spain sent out the most Erasmus students for both studies and placements (39 249), followed by France (35 311) and Germany (34 891). Spain was also the most popular destination country with 40 202 incoming students, followed by Germany (30 368) and France (29 293). The United Kingdom hosted almost twice as many students (27 182) as it sent abroad (14 572).

3 388 higher education institutions sent students on mobility exchanges, an increase of 6% on the previous year.

Chart 1: Number of Erasmus students per year from 1987-88 to 2012-13

Chart 2: Relative change in the number of students per sending country between 2011-12 and 2012-13

The average monthly EU grant was €272 – a 9% increase on the previous year (€250). The chart below shows the monthly average grant for out-bound students. In the 2007-2013 period, the Commission set a ceiling for the monthly student grant for each receiving country, with the precise level in each case set by the national agencies and higher education institutions which manage the programme.

In 2012-13, 388 students with special needs or disabilities received additional funding to take part in Erasmus exchanges, compared with 336 students in 2011-12.

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

3.8% increase in number of students on Erasmus studies

Erasmus offers students the chance to spend part of their degree (at Bachelor, Master or Doctoral level, including short-cycles) studying at a higher education institution in another country for 3 to 12 months.

In 2012-13, out of a total of 268 143 Erasmus students, 212 522 went abroad for studies, an increase of 3.8% on 2011-12. The numbers going abroad for studies increased by more than 10% in seven countries (Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Malta, Slovakia and Turkey). Malta experienced the highest increase (50%). The numbers going abroad decreased in 11 countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Spain).

Spain sent out the most students for studies (33 548), followed by Germany (28 887) and France (26 740). Spain remained the most popular destination for studies abroad, hosting 31 592 Erasmus students, followed by France (24 038), and Germany (22 766).

Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Finland are the countries sending out the most students compared with the size of their graduate population.

On average, students went abroad to study for 6.2 months and the average grant was €253 (against €234 in the previous year).

Social sciences, business studies and law were the most popular subject areas (41%), followed by humanities and arts (22%), then engineering, manufacturing and construction (16%).

16% increase in Erasmus job placements (traineeships)

Since 2007, Erasmus has offered students the opportunity to gain work experience abroad in companies or other organisations related to their field of studies. In 2012-13 one in five Erasmus students – 55 621 out of 268 143 – chose this option, an increase of 16% on the previous year. The average duration for a placement was 4.7 months and students received a monthly EU grant of €376 on average (up from €361 in 2011-12).

As in recent years, France was the country sending the most students on Erasmus placements (8 571), followed by Germany (6 004) and Spain (5 701). The United Kingdom was the most popular destination for Erasmus placements, hosting 9 072 students, followed by Spain (8 610) and Germany (7 602).

To support work placements abroad, a higher education institution can create a consortium involving other institutions and organisations such as companies or associations. 114 placement consortia were funded in 15 participating countries (AT, BG, CY, CZ, DE, ES, FI, FR, GR, IT, NL, PL, PT, SI, TR). These consortia organised around 14% of all work placements abroad under Erasmus in 2012-13.

The largest group of students on Erasmus placements came from a social sciences, business and law background (31%). Students in humanities and arts, engineering, manufacturing and construction had similar shares (17%).

How many higher education students are there in the Erasmus participating countries?

According to the latest Eurostat figures, there were more than 5.5 million graduates in 2011-12 and around 5% of them had benefitted from Erasmus during their studies.

67% of the students did their Erasmus at bachelor level, 29% at master level, 1% at doctoral level, and 3% in short-cycle studies.

Around 10% of European Union 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.

In Bucharest (Romania) on 26-27 April 2012 (IP/12/394), higher education Ministers adopted the Bologna Mobility Strategy. This confirms the objective that, by 2020, 20% of European higher education graduates should have spent part of their studies abroad. This is also in line with the European Union 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 by Erasmus has grown significantly since their launch. Some 465 courses (up from 435 in the previous year) were organised in 2012-13 in 26 countries for a total of 7 247 Erasmus students (+9%).

The most popular destinations to study languages were Italy, Portugal, Belgium (Flemish Community) and Turkey. The highest share of incoming students participating in a language course was in Slovenia (18.5% of incoming students), followed by Romania (12.9%), Iceland and Croatia (between 11 and 12%).

Erasmus staff mobility and 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, academic and non-academic staff in a higher education institution may receive training abroad for a period of five days to six weeks. Since its launch, over 350 000 staff exchanges for teaching and training have been supported through Erasmus.

In the 2012-13 academic year, Erasmus supported 52 624 teaching and non-teaching staff from higher education institutions to teach or receive training abroad. This represents an annual increase of 13%.

The top sending countries were Poland (7 208), followed by Spain (5 049) and Turkey (4 582). The top destination for staff mobility was Spain (5 157), followed by Germany (4 833) and Italy (4 486).

28 staff with special needs received additional funding to participate in Erasmus exchanges (against 16 the previous year).

The average duration of Erasmus staff mobility periods was 5.7 days and the average grant – on top of an individual's regular salary – was €725 (up from €713 in 2011-12).

A total of 2 391 higher education institutions took part in staff mobility, an increase of 2.4% 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. Out of the 52 624 staff exchanges supported in 2012-13, some 36 075 were teaching assignments (+8.3% on the previous year).

Some 504 teaching assignments were undertaken by staff from companies who were invited to teach at higher education institutions in other European countries (+21% on the previous year).

The top sending country was Poland with 4 408 teaching assignments supported, followed by Spain (3 312) and Germany (3 194). The most popular destinations for teaching assignments were Spain (3 587), Germany (3 338) and Italy (3 174).

Teachers from humanities and arts (27%) spent the highest number of exchanges abroad on teaching assignments, followed by teachers of social sciences, business and law (25%) and teachers of engineering, manufacturing and construction (14%). This share has been more or less constant in recent years. 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 the teacher's regular salary – was €702, representing a 4.5% increase on the previous year (€679). 44% of teaching assignments were carried out by women.

Staff training shows significant growth

Since its introduction in 2007, support for staff training has seen a steep increase in popularity. Out of the 52 624 staff exchanges supported in 2012-13, 16 549 were for staff training (+25% on the previous year). These exchanges are for academic and non-academic staff alike, including those working in administration and support services.

3 640 higher education staff trained in companies abroad in 2012-13 (+9% on the previous year).

Poland sent out the highest number of staff for training (2 800) followed by Spain
(1 737) and Turkey (1 465).The UK was the most popular destination (1 638) followed by Spain (1 570) and Germany (1 495).

Staff training periods lasted 6.1 days on average and beneficiaries received an average grant of €776 which is 2.8% higher than the previous year. More female than male staff participated in staff training (67%).

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 intensive programmes, including travel and subsistence for participants.

The countries organising the highest number of programmes were Italy, with 56 courses (10% of the total number), followed by Germany and the Netherlands, 43 courses each, France (35) and Poland (30). The most popular subject areas were social sciences, business and law (22%), humanities and arts (18%), engineering, manufacturing and construction (17%), and science, mathematics and computing (16%). The average duration was 12.5 days.

538 Erasmus intensive programmes were organised in 2012-13 (up from 462 in the previous year), an increase of 16%. 18 241 students (both international and national students) and 6 654 teachers participated.

Erasmus higher education cooperation projects

The Erasmus programme also promotes the modernisation of European higher education through funding for joint cooperation 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 €28.6 million was allocated for these projects in 2013, up from an average of around €20 million in previous years.

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 the major tool for managing study credits and for fostering mobility. (ECTS allocates credit points to each part of a study programme, based on the student workload, to achieve specified learning outcomes. This simplifies the recognition of study abroad in home institutions).

The number of applications for university cooperation projects has grown year-on-year. Some 311 applications were submitted in 2013 (up from 250 in 2012). Of these, 79 were selected for funding, which represents a 25.4% success rate on average. Finland submitted the highest number of proposals (40), followed by Belgium (36), Spain (33) and the UK (32). Belgium was the most successful in terms of applications approved with 15 projects accepted.

How much did the EU spend on the Erasmus programme?

In the 2007-13 budgetary period the EU allocated €3.1 billion to the Erasmus programme.

Most of the Erasmus budget was managed by national agencies in the participating countries. In 2012-13 the total budget available for the national agencies was more than €547 million.

Erasmus also supported multilateral projects and networks which receive around €20 million a year (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














































































How were Erasmus funds allocated at national level?

The overall Erasmus budget for student and staff mobility were 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 are provided by Eurostat.

  • Costs 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 was the monthly EU grant determined2?

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. Under the Lifelong Learning Programme, a national agency could 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 had to respect a ceiling for grants set by the European Commission for every country of destination (see Lifelong Learning Programme Guide).

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

The monthly grant depended 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 could complement the Erasmus grant funded by the European Union.

The national agencies or higher education institutions could increase the monthly grant for students from low-income backgrounds.

In 2012-13, the average monthly EU grant for student mobility ranged from
€143 for Spanish students to €616 for students from Liechtenstein. Across all countries, the average monthly grant was €272.

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 Charter for Higher Education in the 33 programme countries (in 2014 these are the 28 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey). Most of Europe’s higher education institutions – nearly 5 000 – have signed up to the new Erasmus Charter for Higher Education. As from the academic year 2015-2016, new opportunities for student and staff exchanges between programme and partner countries outside Europe will also be offered.

The first step in applying for an Erasmus+ study period or job placement grant is to contact the international relations office at the sending institution and to fill in a learning agreement. This document sets out the programme to be followed by the student during her/his study period or placement and has to be approved by the sending and receiving institutions or receiving company, as well as the student. This ensures full academic recognition from the sending institution for work satisfactorily completed during the Erasmus+ period.

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

Erasmus+ duration: Periods abroad for studies can last from 3 to 12 months and from 2 to 12 months for job placements.

Erasmus+ for staff: Teaching staff are required to submit a teaching programme to their sending institution or enterprise and agreed by the receiving institution. Staff wishing to apply for an Erasmus training grant must similarly have their training programme agreed by their sending and receiving institutions 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 obligations set out in the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education before they can participate in Erasmus mobility or co-operation projects. The emphasis is on ensuring high quality. The receiving 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 sending institution.

Why is the new 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, 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 people from other countries could bring.

Erasmus+ brings together a wide range of EU support for education, training, youth and sport under one single programme. The new programme builds on the success of Erasmus by offering opportunities for 4 million students, apprentices, volunteers, teachers, education and training staff and youth workers to gain experience and skills abroad. More than 2 million higher education students will be able to study or gain work experience abroad, both within and beyond Europe.

For more information

See also IP/14/821 Another record-breaking year for Erasmus

More about the Erasmus+ programme

Erasmus statistics

1 :

The statistics concern the Erasmus programme alone and do not include other European programmes for higher education, like the former Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes.

2 :

Under the new Erasmus+ programme, the amount received for the grant will be more fair and transparent. There will be a minimum and a maximum level for the grant (eg 200-450€/month for student mobility towards a country of similar living costs) set at EU level.

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