Erasmus is a European Union project designed to promote cultural exchange among university students from European Union countries. Learn more about it.
The European Community Action Scheme for Mobility of University Students is better known as ERASMUS, the program’s acronym, so named in honor of the theologian, philosopher and humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus is a European Union project designed to promote cultural exchange among university students from European Union countries, the three European Economic Area countries (Island, Liechtenstein and Norway), and Switzerland and Turkey.
This exchange program was created in 1987 as the product of an initiative from AEGEE Europe, a multi-national student organization. The initiative was received by the European Commissioner of Education and strongly supported by the presidents of France (F. Mitterrand) and Spain (F. Gonzalez). In 1995, the program was admitted under the Socrates Plan and it was firmly established in 2000 when it entered the Socrates Plan II.
In the words of its foundation letter, the goal of the Erasmus program is to “improve the quality of education in Europe and strengthen its dimension by promoting multinational cooperation between universities, stimulating mobility in Europe and improving the transparency and full academic recognition of coursework and certifications throughout the union”.
Beginning in 2007, the Socrates Plan II was replaced with LLL (Life Long Learning), which has its own budget that is scheduled to fund the program until 2013. The Socrates Plan is based on four different branches: the Comenius programs, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig. These branches cover some 2,000 learning institutions in more than 30 countries.
To take advantage of the possibilities offered by the Erasmus program, you just have to be a student in a university degree program with your first year completed and be a citizen of one of the countries included in the Socrates Program. Students may study between three months and a year in a European country that is different from their own and they can earn credit for it from their home universities when the exchange period ends. Another option is to participate in the exchange program by interning in a host country, work that will also be recognized and included on the intern’s résumé. Five out every six students in the program however take classes while only one in five do internships.
There is also an Erasmus scholarship program designed to help students cover part of the additional expenses of living in a foreign country. The scholarships available depend on each country, and in Spain they vary according to each autonomous community. The scholarships never cover the total residency cost, but they do provide a significant help of between 200 and 800 Euros per month.
Signatures are currently being collected (one million are needed) to request that the European Union increase its funding of programs such as Erasmus from 1.2% of its budget to 3% beginning in 2014. This campaign is known as Fraternité 2020.
The opportunities offered by the program have made Erasmus a unique life experience for many young Europeans. It gives students the chance to experience –often for the first time- living abroad, which will increase their knowledge of other cultures within the European Union and give them a chance to meet students from other countries in a shared environment and learn about living, socializing and integrating themselves in the country of their temporary residence. In Spain, we can be proud that our country is the destination country that most Erasmus students hope to study in. Of the ten European cities with the largest number of Erasmus students, six are Spanish destinations: Granada, Valencia, Madrid, Seville, Salamanca and Barcelona. One conclusion that can be made from these statistics is that the beginning of the notion of “Europeanism”, which until the introduction of programs like Erasmus was dangerously approaching a state of utopia, is beginning to take hold among the European Union’s young people with the help of these multi-national experiences.
The Erasmus program was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 2004 as “one of the most important cultural exchange programs in the history of humankind”.