Members' Research Service By / July 21, 2017

Studying abroad with Erasmus+ [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Denise Chircop, The European Union’s Erasmus+ programme is best known for subsidising study periods abroad and other forms…

© Gennadiy Poznyakov / Fotolia

Written by Denise Chircop,

Promoting EU student mobility
© Gennadiy Poznyakov / Fotolia

The European Union’s Erasmus+ programme is best known for subsidising study periods abroad and other forms of learning mobility for individuals, including volunteering and cross-border professional experiences for teaching staff. Studies show the benefits and limitations of learning mobility and after 30 years, the programme continues to evolve.


Erasmus+ is the EU funding programme dedicated to education, training, youth and sport. Member States are solely responsible for these areas, but the EU supports cooperation, policy innovation, cross-sectoral projects and mobility. The student-mobility programme Erasmus (now under the first pillar of Erasmus+, Key action 1) is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017.

Beneficiaries and budget

The programme’s target is that more than 4 million individuals experience mobility between 2014 and 2020. This figure includes approximately 2 million higher education students, 650 000 vocational education and training (VET) students and 800 000 lecturers, teachers, trainers, education staff and youth workers. More than 500 000 young people are expected to take part in youth exchange or voluntary schemes, more than 200 000 to receive a master’s loan and more than 25 000 students to take up joint master’s degrees.

The financial envelope of €14.7 billion represents 1.36 % of the European Union’s spending between 2014 and 2020. At least 63 % of the budget dedicated to youth, education and training, is earmarked for ‘Learning mobility of individuals’. The European Commission’s work programme for 2017 allocated over €1 billion for the mobility of students and staff, €54 million for the student-loan guarantee facility, around €140 million for degrees and programmes, and a further €150 million for youth mobility. Funds for the loan guarantee are still under-used as not enough banks are participating in the scheme.

Effects and developments

A study, carried out in 2014, looked at the effects of learning mobility on students, staff and higher education institutions. The study asserted that Erasmus alumni made huge gains in soft skills that significantly enhanced their employability and career progression 10 years on. On the other hand, financial constraints and an unwillingness to leave one’s immediate surroundings were cited as the two main barriers to participation. In an attempt to overcome one of the obstacles, supplementary grants are given to students with a disability, for which 1.4 % of beneficiaries applied. The study also noted that staff mobility had a clear impact on the internationalisation of higher education institutions, yet staff claimed that their mobility experience did not receive sufficient recognition while support structures were not as advanced as those for student mobility.

New initiatives include the extension of the Mobility Scoreboard, a monitoring tool, to cover vocational education and training (VET) and the piloting of badges to improve the transparency and recognition of newly acquired skills. The Commission also recently announced the setting up of a European Solidarity Corps, offering volunteering opportunities or apprenticeships to young people, and Move2Learn, Learn2Move, a mobility initiative for school classes that presents the best eTwinning (school networking platform) projects.

In its February 2017 resolution on Erasmus+, the European Parliament recognised the difficulties of the first phase of implementation but also acknowledged the efforts made to improve the user-friendliness of the programme. It recommended increasing the mobility of school pupils and exempting mobility grants from taxes and levies. The Parliament’s Committee for Culture and Education expressed its reservations on the use of Erasmus+ funds for the ‘European Solidarity Corps’, as a separate budget is more likely to yield added value.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

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