Erasmus Program

Erasmus Program

The Erasmus Program (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students[1]) is a European Union (EU) student exchange program established in 1987. Erasmus+, or Erasmus Plus, is the new program combining all the EU’s current schemes for education, training, youth and sport, which was started in January 2014.

The Erasmus Program, together with a number of other independent programs, was incorporated into the Socrates program established by the European Commission in 1994. The Socrates program ended on 31 December 1999 and was replaced with the Socrates II program on 24 January 2000, which in turn was replaced by the Lifelong Learning Program 2007–2013 on 1 January 2007.

Origins of the name

The program is named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, known as an opponent of dogmatism, who lived and worked in many places in Europe to expand his knowledge and gain new insights, and who left his fortune to the University of Basel in Switzerland.[1] At the same time, ERASMUS is an acronym meaning European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.[1]

1987 European Commission proposal

By the time the Erasmus Program was adopted in June 1987, the European Commission had been supporting pilot student exchanges for 6 years. It proposed the original Erasmus Program in early 1986, but reaction from the then Member States varied: those with substantial exchange programs of their own (essentially France, Germany and the United Kingdom) were broadly hostile; the remaining countries were broadly in favor. Exchanges between the Member States and the European Commission deteriorated, and the latter withdrew the proposal in early 1987 to protest against the inadequacy of the triennial budget proposed by some Member States.[1]

European Court of Justice Decision

This method of voting was not accepted by some of the opposing Member States, who challenged the adoption of the decision before the European Court of Justice. Although the Court held that the adoption was procedurally flawed, it maintained the substance of the decision; a further decision, adapted in the light of the jurisprudence, was rapidly adopted by the Council of Ministers.

Adoption and growth

The program built on the 1981–1986 pilot student exchanges, and although it was formally adopted only shortly before the beginning of the academic year 1987-1988, it was still possible for 3,244 students to participate in Erasmus in its first year. In 2006, over 150,000 students, or almost 1% of the European student population, took part. The proportion is higher among university teachers, where Erasmus teacher mobility is 1.9% of the teacher population in Europe, or 20,877 people.[citation needed]

In the past twenty years, over two million students [2] have benefited from Erasmus grants, and the European Commission aims to reach a total of 3 million by 2012. [citation needed]

Lifelong Learning Program 2007–2013

The Lifelong Learning Program 2007–2013 replaced the Socrates program as the overall umbrella under which the Erasmus (and other) programs operate from 2007.

Erasmus Mundus

Main article: Erasmus Mundus

The Erasmus Mundus program is another, parallel program that is oriented towards globalising European education. Whereas the Erasmus Program is open to Europeans, Erasmus Mundus is open to non-Europeans with Europeans being exceptional cases.

Citizens’ initiative for more money 2014–2020

On 9 May 2012,[3] Fraternité 2020 was registered as Europe’s first European Citizens’ Initiative. Its goal was to increase the budget for EU exchange programs like Erasmus or the European Voluntary Service from 2014. To be successful it would have needed 1 million signatures by 1 November 2013. It ultimately collected only 71,057 signatures from citizens across the EU.[4]

Erasmus+ 2014–2020

Erasmus+ (2014-2020), also called Erasmus Plus, is the new 14.7 billion euro catch-all framework program for education, training, youth and sport.[5] The new Erasmus+ program combines all the EU’s current schemes for education, training, youth and sport, including the Lifelong Learning Program (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig), Youth in Action and five international co-operation programs (Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the program for co-operation with industrialized countries). The Erasmus+ regulation [6] was signed on 11 December 2013.[7]


There are currently more than 4,000 higher institutions participating in Erasmus across the 37 countries involved in the Erasmus program and by 2013, 3 million students [8] had taken part since the program’s inception in 1987. In 2012-13 alone, 270,000 took part, the most popular destinations being Spain, Germany, and France.[9] Erasmus students represented 5 percent of European graduates as of 2012.[10]

A number of studies have raised issues related to the selection into the program and the representativeness of the participants. Such studies have raised doubts about the inclusiveness of the program, by socio-economic background, level of study, or academic performance. Thus, one study analyses the financial issues and family background of Erasmus students, showing that despite the fact that access to the program has been moderately widened, there are still important socio-economic barriers to participation in the program.[11] Other study argues that the reason why the Erasmus program misses its mark to reinforce a European identity is that it addresses university students, who are already very likely to feel European.[12] Finally, a study finds out what seems to be an adverse self-selection of Erasmus students based on their prior academic performance, with higher-performing students less likely to participate than lower-performing ones.[13]


The Erasmus Program had previously been restricted to applicants who had completed at least one year of tertiary-level study, but it is now also available to high (secondary) school students.


Students who join the Erasmus Program study at least 3 months or do an internship for a period of at least 2 months to an academic year in another European country. The Erasmus Program guarantees that the period spent abroad is recognized by their university when they come back, as long as they abide by terms previously agreed. Switzerland has been suspended as a participant in the Erasmus program as of 2015, following the popular vote to limit the immigration of EU citizens into Switzerland. As a consequence, Swiss students will not be able to apply for the program and European students will not be able to spend time at a Swiss university under that program.[14]

A main part of the program is that students do not pay extra tuition fees to the university that they visit. Students can also apply for an Erasmus grant to help cover the additional expense of living abroad. Students with disabilities can apply for an additional grant to cover extraordinary expenses.

In order to reduce expenses and increase mobility, many students also use the European Commission-supported accommodation network, CasaSwap, FlatClub, Erasmusinn, Eurasmus,[15] Erasmate or Student Mundial, which are free websites where students and young people can rent, sublet, offer and swap accommodation – on a national and international basis. A derived benefit is that students can share knowledge and exchange tips and hints with each other before and after going abroad.