Erasmus Programme logo

The Erasmus Plus Programme: A Legacy of Erasmus of Rotterdam

Studying abroad is something university students or future students wish to experience. At least once in their lifetime. Crossing international borders for education has been in practice since the middle ages. While limited people were able to make this trip to enrich their knowledge back then, in today’s world, there’s an opportunity to do so more than ever.

In the spirit of the fall intake season at universities around the world, in today’s post, we’ll be discussing one of these study-abroad opportunities. We’ll be looking into the Erasmus+ Programme, a programme named after one of the pioneers of studying abroad.

What is the Erasmus+ Programme?

erasmus + programme logo
The logo of the Erasmus Plus Programme. Image Credit: Campus France

ERASMUS or Erasmus is short for EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. It is an initiative undertaken by the European Union that allows university students, teachers and youth workers to study or gain work experience for a certain amount of time in another European country.

The Erasmus+ studying abroad opportunity for students is perhaps the most popular example. Here, university students from universities around Europe and other countries participate in this programme either to fulfil their course requirements or voluntarily. Either way, it allows Erasmus students the opportunity to live and study in another European country. This programme waives off any tuition fee payable to the host university. Additionally, on applying for an Erasmus+ grant, students can receive a monthly amount of anywhere between €250 and €450 depending on the destination.

The program can last anywhere between 3 and 12 months, where students can choose to study a range of different subjects from different faculties. The majority of students, however, prefer to study foreign languages as they get the opportunity to practice using languages with their native speakers.

This way, students can truly enhance their learning as they experience different educational systems and teaching methods. It is a great way to gain new perspectives, meet and connect with new people from around the globe. This can potentially benefit them in the future, both academically and professionally.  It is believed to teach students to be more self-reliant and mindful, improve learning foreign languages, and, improve interpersonal skills and intercultural skills.

The Objectives of the Erasmus+ Programme

Through the Erasmus+ programme, the European Union aims to support learning, teaching, skills training, the work of youth and sport within Europe. It also works to promote European culture and values, encourage the participation of youth in society; prepare the youth, learners and educators for the ongoing digital transformation, and work towards becoming climate neutral by 2050. It also aims to facilitate access to valuable opportunities for the disadvantaged and promote equality.

Who can apply to the Programme?

As mentioned earlier, the Erasmus+ programme isn’t just limited to university students. The opportunity has been extended to educators and youth workers as well. This is why the program offers people not only to study but volunteer, train and do internships as well.

map of the world showing partner countries
Map of the world highlighting all the Erasmus Partner countries in yellow. Image Credit: Oceans Network

Anyone eligible to take part in the Erasmus+ programme can apply. The first criterion is to be enrolled in a higher education institution or organization. The eligibility would depend on the country the applicant is based in. Countries are categorized as either Programme or Partner countries. Programme countries refer to all countries within the European Union and a few others within the European continent. Participants from these countries are eligible to take part in all key actions. Partner countries, refer to several countries around the world and they can only be eligible to partake in some actions under certain conditions.

Note: Key actions are the plan of action executed to achieve the aforementioned objectives.

Click here to find the list of Programme and Partner countries and to learn more about eligibility. 

Click here to find out how to apply. 

Status of the Erasmus+ Programme

The scheme, named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, is perhaps the largest and the most well-known educational and cultural exchange program in the world. It allows university students to study in other universities within Europe, participating in the Erasmus Programme. The number of participants increases each year for this programme, further increasing its popularity and proving it to be the most successful exchange program in the world.

The Erasmus+ Programme is currently managed by the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA)  of the European Commission, several national agencies and national offices in the programme counties and partner countries respectively.

Including almost all higher educational institutes within the European Union, at present, there are over 5,000 institutions across 37 countries that participate in the program. Since its conception, around 9 million students have profited from the program.

What are the Benefits of Participating in the Erasmus+ Programme?

Learning mobility or the opportunity to travel to different places to learn undoubtedly has numerous benefits. It empowers people to acquire valuable skills that can help them become more independent, live more gratifying lives, be more adaptable and learn how to coordinate with others. These skills are undeniably desirable. As such, they could improve the chances of employability in organizations around the world, not just in Europe. Moreover, employers and people generally have high regard for those who’ve obtained education from Europe. This is because a European education tends to guarantee quality and excellence.

chart showing hirability of erasmus students
Erasmus students enhance their chances of getting hired. Image Credit: World Economic Forum

Additionally, with initiatives such as the Erasmus+ program, participants, especially those from outside Europe can understand the diversity of Europe. Many falsely believe that all European countries follow the same sort of culture. But, only by living there, engaging with the people and immersing themselves in the culture, can they see how unique each nation is. Through these programmes, people can rid themselves of misconceptions they may have about places and people. These were some benefits at a more individual level.

There are benefits at the level of an organization or institute as well. This programme encourages institutes to collaborate through workshops, programmes and projects. This allows them to build a network to stay connected and it fosters innovation and an exchange of ideas.

On an even larger scale, it could benefit different groups in society. In their effort to promote social inclusion, the Erasmus Programme is working to provide educational opportunities for young migrants and refugees, for instance, to receive the education that they deserve. Just like any other member of society.

The Conception of the Erasmus Programme

The Erasmus+ Programme did not initially have the +  in its name. Earlier, it was simply known as the Erasmus Programme. So now we will see what the + means and how the programme has evolved over the years.

As mentioned earlier, the programme was named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus. He lived from 1466 to 1536, so one would expect the programme to also be centuries old. But, it has just been over three decades since its conception.

Erasmus was inspired by the pilot student exchanges that the European Commission used to support the years before its conception.

Yet even before that, the concept of learning mobility existed. In Europe, for many centuries, particularly since the renaissance period, travelling and a more tolerant approach to education was believed to broaden the mind. Young nobles would journey across Europe and during their trip they would learn different languages, art and sports.

The Evolution of the Erasmus Programme

erasmus programme artwork
Image Credit: Erasmus+

The Erasmus Programme was created as a student exchange programme only for higher education students. The idea was initially presented in 1986 but poorly received by some of the EU member states. After many rejections and hardships, the programme was finally accepted and in 1987, the Erasmus Programme was officially launched. That year, merely 3244 students had participated in the programme from 11 European countries. This number has grown exponentially since then.

Over the years, the Erasmus Programme was incorporated into other education programmes, such as the Socrates Programme, which was later replaced by the Lifelong Learning Programme. In these transitions, its popularity grew as, by 2006, 1% of Europe’s entire student population had participated in the Programme.

In these years, the programme went through many changes, in its objectives and in deciding its areas of focus. The Erasmus Programme (2009-2013) only concentrated on the mobility of university staff and students. Then, a new programme known as the Erasmus+ Programme (2014-2020) was created and approved in 2013. In this new programme, the focus would still be on the mobility of university staff and students. There would, however, be additional opportunities to study, train and volunteer for apprentices, youth workers, volunteers, teachers and vocational students. The +  sign, therefore, represents these additions as well as the additional activities in their plan of action.

Who was Erasmus of Rotterdam?

By now you may have noticed the name Desiderius Erasmus being mentioned a couple of times throughout this post. We know he was a Dutch philosopher but, we don’t yet know what role he played, that his namesake was used for this programme?  Let’s find out.

painting of erasmus of rotterdam
A portrait of Desiderius Erasmus or Erasmus of Rotterdam. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Desiderius Eresmus or Eresmus of Rotterdam was a Dutch philosopher and humanist of the Christian faith. He was a popular and influential scholar within Europe and was considered to be one of the most controversial personalities of the early Renaissance era.

He is known for his literary works such as The Praise of Folly, On Free Will, Adagia, The Education of a Christian Prince and more. The Praise of Folly, however, was the book that made him rise to fame. This literary work was a satirical attack on the superstitions and traditions that European society and the Catholic Church believed in back in the day. He was also known for translating the New Testament into Greek. The way he interpreted the text challenged the theological philosophy known since the middle ages. These are a few of the reasons why he was considered to be a controversial figure.

The Life of Desiderius Erasmus

He had been a bright student since he began his education. He was particularly talented at languages. He knew several, including Dutch, Latin, Greek and German. Later in life, he found work as the secretary for the bishop of Chambray. Impressed with his linguistic skills, the bishop offered him the opportunity to travel and study in Paris.

There he studied classical literature and Latin and became a lecturer. One of his students, William Blunt, 4th Baron of Montjoy, set up a pension for him with which he could travel across Europe. He would travel from one major city to the other to learn, teach and connect with other notable philosophers and personalities of the time. He believed that he could only acquire knowledge, experience and insights in a certain depth by staying in different countries.

Erasmus of Rotterdam died in 1536 from dysentery and was buried in Basel, Switzerland.

How Does the Erasmus Programme Reflect the Legacy of Desiderius Erasmus?

Now that we know a little bit about the life of Erasmus of Rotterdam, we can understand why the Erasmus Programme was named after him. His approach and beliefs towards learning are clearly reflected in the goals and objectives of the Erasmus Programme.

Apart from being a great scholar of his time, he is the perfect example of a student who learns at different educational establishments, journeying through different cities, making connections, exchanging ideas and collaborating with other great minds. He indeed proved the benefits that travelling has, on learning- that it truly enriches knowledge and makes a person more open-minded.

Many institutes, libraries and buildings all over the world have been named after him, but nothing quite carries his legacy through, like the Erasmus Programme.

illustration of erasmus logo
Image Credit: Erasmus Plus IES Pablo Picasso

The Erasmus Programme and Erasmus of Rotterdam: A Quick Summary

In this post, we discovered that the Erasmus Plus Programme allows students, teachers and the youth the opportunity to travel and work in a European country for a few months. This enhances their learning experience and allows them to acquire skills that will improve their employability. We also found out the reason why Erasmus was the most appropriate name chosen for this programme. It is a tribute to the renowned Renaissance scholar and philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus. He believed and proved that travelling provides a depth in knowledge and experience that no other activity can provide. His legacy lives through this initiative taken by the European Union.


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