Record number of EU students studying abroad

by Ray Clancy on June 8, 2011

More EU students studying abroad

A record number of European students have become expats as more than ever have received grants from the European Union to study abroad.

More than 213,000 grants under the EU Erasmus programme were received by students to study or train abroad during the 2009/10 academic year, a new record and 7.4% increase on the previous year’s figure.

Erasmus is the world’s most successful student exchange programme and, on current trends, the EU will reach its target of supporting three million European students by 2012/13 since the programme’s launch in 1987.

The three most popular destinations for students in 2009/10 were Spain, France and the United Kingdom. Spain sent the largest number of students abroad, followed by France and Germany. More than half, 61%, of Erasmus students were female.

‘The Erasmus programme is one of the great success stories of the European Union. The latest figures speak for themselves. Erasmus is more popular than ever and I am committed to securing more resources for it in future,’ said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

‘Studying or training abroad opens doors to personal development and job opportunities so we are right to be ambitious when it comes to investing in our young people,’ she added.

Of the total number of students supported through Erasmus in 2009/10, 178 000 spent part of their degree programme abroad at a university or other higher education institution in one of 32 countries participating in the Erasmus initiative, that is the 27 EU member states, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey.

Switzerland became the 33rd country to join Erasmus this year. The number of students choosing the study option increased by 5.7% compared with 2008/09.

Work placements in companies abroad have been supported through Erasmus since 2007 and are increasingly popular. In 2009/10, 35,000 students, one in six of the total, chose this option. This represents a 17.3% increase on the previous year.

The average monthly Erasmus grant received by students fell by around 7% to €254, due to the increased numbers getting support. Demand strongly exceeds the availability of Erasmus grants in most participating countries.

In addition, 38 000 grants were awarded to university staff and teachers to teach or receive training abroad, 4% more than in the previous year.

Learning mobility is a key objective of the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs and the focus of the Commission’s ‘Youth on the Move’ initiative that builds on the success of Erasmus.

An estimated 10% of European students are currently studying or training abroad as part of their higher education of which 4% receive an Erasmus grant. Last month, the Commission unveiled plans for a new European target aimed at increasing the overall level of student mobility to at least 20%.

A recent Eurobarometer survey found that many students are thwarted in their ambition to study or train abroad due to a lack of funding. It found that, of those who wanted to go abroad, 33% couldn’t afford it and nearly two thirds, 63%, of those who did had to rely on private funding or savings. ‘This finding underlines the need to strengthen our mobility programmes, which provide excellent value for money,’ said Vassiliou.

Last month, EU Education Ministers adopted a joint plan to remove obstacles to learning mobility and to boost it through additional financing and curricula reforms.

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