Erasmus turns 35, a healthy adult from which the future European society is born

During this time of war, division and suffering of peoples and countries we want to celebrate 35 years of the Erasmus programme since 2014 called Erasmus +. We do it because we feel that in this way we can make a contribution to peace, talking about people, especially young people, meeting, mixing, confronting, merging together traditions and origins not to forget them, but to allow them to shake hands, giving way to a united and open global society.

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When was Erasmus born?

It was on 15 June 1987 that the Council of the European Economic Community set up the EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) with the aim of “significantly increasing mobility within the Community and promoting greater cooperation between universities”, reads the official text of the decision which also defines the start: “The Erasmus programme shall be implemented as from 1 July 1987”.

The Council, then composed of 12 member states, explained the objectives of Erasmus in Article 2 of the decision. Firstly, “to achieve a substantial increase in the number of students at universities undertaking an integrated period of study in another Member State, so that the Community has an appropriate pool of people with direct experience of the economic and social life of other Member States, while ensuring equal opportunities for girls and boys who benefit from such mobility”.

Secondly, “to promote wide-ranging and intensive cooperation between universities in all Member States”. Thirdly, to “exploit the full intellectual potential of the Community’s universities through greater mobility of teaching staff and thus enable the quality of the teaching and training provided by these universities to be improved in order to ensure the Community’s competitiveness on the world market”. Fourthly, “to strengthen relations between the citizens of the different Member States in order to consolidate the idea of a citizens’ Europe”. Fifthly, “to have graduates with direct experience of intra-Community cooperation and thus create a basis on which intensive cooperation in economic and social matters can be developed at Community level”. In short, the people of the European Union, at that time still the European Community, were being formed.
Article 4 defined the amounts deemed necessary for the implementation of the Erasmus programme during the period from 1 July 1987 to 30 June 1990 as 85 million ecus, i.e. the father of the euro, the European unit of account, a fictitious currency defined by a set of fixed amounts of each Community currency, weighted according to the relative importance of the national economies.

How is Erasmus after 35 years?

Erasmus is now an adult and in 2014 it changed its name, gaining a ‘plus’, becoming Erasmus+, because it has widened the scope of its activities, offering mobility and cooperation in the fields of education, training, youth and sport all over the world and addressing not only university students but all students in general aged between 13 and 30. It is a cherished project and, ideally, a foundation for the European society of tomorrow. Just think how many boys and girls have been born to Erasmus couples! This emblematic programme is considered by European citizens as the third most positive achievement of the EU, right after free movement and peace. Over the past 30 years, more than 10 million people have participated in the programme in 33 countries (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey).

A year ago, in March 2021, at the height of the pandemic, the European Commission adopted the first Erasmus+ annual work programme for the period 2021-2027. With a budget of €26.2 billion (compared to €14.7 billion in 2014-2020), supplemented by around €2.2 billion from the EU’s external instruments, the programme will fund learning mobility and cross-border cooperation projects for 10 million European citizens of all ages and backgrounds. The programme aims to be even more inclusive and to support green and digital transitions, as set out in the European Education Area.

The new Erasmus+ programme offers opportunities for study abroad, traineeships, apprenticeships and staff exchanges in all areas of education, training, youth and sport. It is open to school pupils and students in higher education and vocational education and training, adult learners, young people on exchange, youth workers and sports coaches.
In addition to mobility, which accounts for 70% of the budget, the new Erasmus+ programme also invests in cross-border cooperation projects that can involve higher education institutions (e.g. the European Universities Initiative); schools; teacher education and training institutions (e.g. Erasmus+ Teacher Academies); adult learning centres; youth and sports organisations; vocational education and training providers (e.g. centres of professional excellence); and other learning stakeholders.

Main features of the Erasmus+ 2021-2027 programme

New features include individual and class exchanges for school pupils and mobility for adult learners. Smaller organisations, such as schools, youth associations and sports clubs, will find it easier to apply thanks to smaller-scale partnerships and the use of simplified grants. The programme will also be more international, to cooperate with non-EU countries, building on the successes of the previous programme through exchanges and cooperation projects around the world, which now extend to sport and the vocational education and training sectors.

Erasmus+ will support the development of digital competencies, in line with the Digital Education Action Plan. It will enable high-quality e-learning and exchanges, through platforms such as eTwinning, School Education Gateway and the European Youth Portal, and encourage traineeships in the digital sector. New formats, such as ‘Blended Intensive’ programmes, will allow short stays abroad to be combined with online learning and teamwork. Programme implementation will be further digitised and simplified with the full introduction of the European student card. In line with the European Green Deal, the programme will offer financial incentives to participants who use sustainable modes of transport. It will also invest in projects to raise awareness of environmental issues and facilitate exchanges related to climate mitigation. The DiscoverEU project now becomes an integral part of Erasmus+ and offers 18-year-olds the chance to get a train ticket to travel across Europe, learn from other cultures and meet other young Europeans. Erasmus+ will also support opportunities for exchange and cooperation through new youth participation activities to help young people learn and engage in democratic life, raising awareness of shared European values and fundamental rights, and bringing together young people and policymakers at local, national and European levels.

For 2022 year

The 2022 budget amounts to almost €3.9 billion, ensuring that Erasmus+ will continue to offer opportunities for study periods abroad, traineeships, apprenticeships and staff exchanges as well as cross-border cooperation projects in different areas of education and training, youth and sport. There are some new features in the calls published by the European Commission.

New large-scale projects will support inclusive, high-quality digital education and the adaptation of education and training systems to the green transition. These ambitious projects, with a substantial budget and a duration of at least 3 years, aim to involve a combination of public and private organisations. The overall aim is to achieve innovative results that have an impact on education at the European level.

More exchanges with third countries. With funding from the EU’s external instruments, third countries will have the opportunity to participate in targeted projects and exchanges, particularly in the areas of vocational education and training and sport.

More inclusive DiscoverEU initiative. DiscoverEU offers 18-year-olds the opportunity to travel around Europe. Every year, 2 application rounds take place for the distribution of free travel passes. From 2022 onwards, specific rounds will be dedicated to organisations to facilitate the participation in DiscoverEU of even more young people with fewer opportunities, who will benefit from more targeted support and funding.

Bringing the EU closer to schools, for knowledge of the EU’s objectives and functioning, is seen as an important part of promoting active citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination.

Simplified funding for cooperation projects: Erasmus+ introduces the possibility for beneficiaries in cooperation partnerships to request a lump sum for the implementation of their projects. This considerably reduces the administrative burden associated with the application, project management and reporting tasks.

Any public or private body active in the fields of education, training, youth and sport can apply for funding, with the help of the Erasmus+ National Agencies, which are present in all EU Member States and third countries associated with the programme, and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency.




Giulia Torbidoni – TIA


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