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ELM News ImageErasmus @ 20: the Commission launches the celebrations for the anniversary of its flagship education programme

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Ján Figel’, Commissioner in charge of Education & Training, today hailed the ERASMUS programme for its leading role as a driver for modernising Europe’s higher education systems. They called for this role to be further reinforced as they launched the celebrations for the programme's 20th anniversary in Brussels today. The ERASMUS programme encourages student and teacher mobility, and promotes transnational cooperation projects among universities across Europe. The scheme currently covers nine out of every ten European higher education establishments.

The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said: “ERASMUS has developed beyond just being an educational programme. It gives many European university students the chance of living for the first time in a foreign country, and it has reached the status of a social and cultural phenomenon. It is an excellent example of what coordinated European action in the field of education can achieve, and bodes well for the success of the recently proposed European Institute of Technology, which – like Erasmus 20 years ago – is a brand new concept that represents a vision and a belief that concerted European action has a larger added value than the sum up of excellent independent initiatives.”

Jan Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism said: “Erasmus has been and remains a key factor in the internationalisation and somehow “Europeanisation” of the EU’s higher education systems. Those months spent abroad are also a turning point in the lives of thousands of individuals: 80% of the participants are the first in their family to undertake a period of study abroad”. To conclude: “Among the challenges left, the ERASMUS grant remains far too low to allow students from less favourable financial backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of the Programme. Also the Commission is calling for Member States to increase their support for ERASMUS, to open it up to even more students, especially those from less privileged backgrounds.”

The Erasmus Programme was adopted in June 1987 and 3 244 students participated in its first year. In 2005, the number had risen to 144 032 students, or almost 1% of the European student population. The proportion is higher among university teachers, where Erasmus teacher mobility is 1.9% of the teacher population in Europe, or 20 877 people.

In the past twenty years, well over one-and-a-half million students - 60% of ERASMUS being female - have benefited from ERASMUS grants and the European Commission aims to reach a total of 3 million by 2012.

Two key features set the ERASMUS programme apart from other EU education programmes:

  • Studies confirm that participating in ERASMUS can be a key asset when it comes to finding a job – a study period abroad is seen as valuable experience by today’s employers.

• ERASMUS has been, and continues to be, a driver for change in European higher education. It has helped reshape the face of Higher Education systems in Europe by inspiring the Bologna Process, a major initiative to simplify Europe’s diverse higher education systems, which currently covers 45 countries. It is interesting to note in this regard that all the EU universities listed in the Shanghai rankings participate in ERASMUS.

The celebrations for the ERASMUS programme in 2007 coincide with those for the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. The ERASMUS programme stands out as one of the most concrete and popular examples of the progress achieved during fifty years of European integration.