Erasmus, that the European Commission likes to brand "the world's most successful student exchange programme", celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Nearly three million students have benefited from a study period or work placement abroad since the creation of the Erasmus programme in 1987.
Under the slogan, 'Erasmus: changing lives, opening minds for 25 years', the silver anniversary celebrations has been launched by Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. Erasmus mobility is at the heart of the Commission's strategy to combat the crisis and youth unemployment.
"The impact of Erasmus has been tremendous, not only for individual students, but for the European economy as a whole. Through its support for high-quality teaching and a modern higher education system, with closer links between academia and employers, it is helping us to tackle the skills mismatch. It also gives young people the confidence and ability to work in other countries, where the right jobs might be available, and not to be trapped by a geographic mismatch" said President Barroso.
Commissioner Vassiliou added: "Erasmus is one of the great success stories of the European Union: it is our best known and most popular programme. Erasmus exchanges enable students to improve their knowledge of foreign languages and to develop skills such as adaptability which improve their prospects. It also provides opportunities for teachers and other staff to see how higher education works in other countries and to bring the best ideas home. Demand for places strongly exceeds the resources available in many countries - one of the reasons why we plan to expand opportunities for study and training abroad under our proposed new education, training and youth programme, Erasmus for All".
In the 2011/2012 academic year, more than 250 000 people will benefit from the Erasmus programme. The most popular destinations for students are expected to be Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, while the top 'sending' countries are expected to be Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland. The EU has allocated around € 3 billion for Erasmus for the period 2007-13.
Erasmus for All would bring together all the current EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport, replacing seven existing programmes with one. The European Commission wants us to believe that this will increase efficiency, make it easier to apply for grants, as well as reducing duplication and fragmentation. Of course EAEA and many other stakeholders are more than worried about the implications of such a move. Under the new programme, the aim is for up to 5 million people, almost twice as many as now, to get the chance to study, train or teach abroad. The Commission's proposal is currently being discussed by the Member States and the European Parliament, which decide the future budget.