Discover Erasmus+ to study, train, teach, work or volunteer abroad

THIS year marks 32 years of one of the most successful EU programmes ever, Erasmus.

Over 90,000 Irish students and teachers have had a chance to study and train in other EU countries with the support of the Erasmus networks and grants from the European Commission.

These days, Erasmus Plus (as it’s now known) is not only for university students but has expanded its reach to vocational training, apprentices and youth workers.  

Statistics show that more than twice as many EU students come into Ireland for Erasmus, as Irish students go to other Member States. Most recent figures show that about 4,000 Irish students a year go through Erasmus to other EU countries to study, while about 8,000 EU students a year come here to Ireland.

More successful than ever

The top receiving Irish colleges are UCD, followed by the University of Limerick and UCC. The EU countries sending the most students to Ireland for their Erasmus placements are France, Germany and Spain. 

The European Commission has published new figures showing that the EU’s education and training programme, celebrating its 32nd anniversary this year, is more successful and open than ever before.

In 2017, Erasmus+ enabled 797,000 Europeans to study, train, work and volunteer abroad. In the same year, the EU invested Ä2.6 billion in over 22,400 projects involving 84,700 organisations. These are the main findings of the Erasmus+ Annual Report published by the European Commission. Results also show that the programme is well on track to meet its target of supporting 4 million people between 2014 and 2020.

Mobility broadens horizons

Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and former Erasmus student at the University of Leicester (UK) said: “Education is vital in equipping people with the knowledge, competences, skills and ability to make the most of their potential and of the opportunities open to them. 

“Mobility broadens our horizons and strengthens us further. Erasmus can offer both. As a former Erasmus student, I have experienced this first hand. 

“I encourage other students and in particular teachers, trainers, youth workers and vocational education and training students to also make use of the opportunities open to them under Erasmus+”.

Opening up opportunities

Tibor Navracsics

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Erasmus has been opening up opportunities to young people for over three decades now, enabling them to develop vital skills, including social and intercultural skills, and promoting active citizenship. 

“By connecting people and supporting them in working together, the programme plays a key role in empowering our youth to build a better society. This is the solidarity Europe needs, now more than ever. I want to ensure that Erasmus+ can support even more people from a wider range of backgrounds in the future”.

Still expanding

In 2017, Erasmus+ expanded even further by enabling, for the first time, higher education institutions to send and receive more than 41,000 students and staff to and from countries beyond Europe. 

France, Germany and Spain remain the top three sending countries, while Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom receive most of the Erasmus+ participants. 

Feedback from participants confirms that time spent abroad with Erasmus+ is time well spent: 94% say their skills have improved and 80% feel that it has boosted their career opportunities. 

One in three students who do traineeships abroad through Erasmus+ is offered a position by their host company.

Societal challenges

The report also gives an overview of steps taken by the Commission to adapt Erasmus+ to help the EU and Member States tackle societal challenges, such as the integration of refugees and migrants. 

For instance, the programme’s Online Linguistic Support system has been extended to benefit 380,000 refugees between 2014 and 2017; Ä4 million have been made available for this. The aim is to enable especially young people to enter the host countries’ education systems and develop their skills. 

Over the past 32 years, Erasmus+ and its predecessors have supported not only more than 5 million students, apprentices and volunteers, but also staff and youth exchanges, some 9 million people in total.


Erasmus is one of the most successful programmes of the European Union. For over three decades, it has been offering in particular young people opportunities to gain new experiences and broaden their horizons by going abroad. 

What started as a modest mobility scheme for higher education students back in 1987, with only 3,200 students participating during its first year, Erasmus has developed over the last 32 years into a flagship programme benefiting over 325,000 higher education students per year. 

At the same time, the programme has become much broader, providing opportunities for study periods and traineeships/apprenticeships for both higher education and vocational education and training students, youth exchanges, volunteering and staff exchanges in all fields of education, training, youth and sport. 

Erasmus+ is also more open to people from disadvantaged backgrounds than earlier iterations of the programme.

The geographical scope of the programme has expanded from 11 countries in 1987 to 33 currently (all 28 EU Member States as well as Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

Transnational partnerships

The current Erasmus+ programme, running from 2014 to 2020, has a budget of Ä14.7 billion and by 2020 will provide opportunities for over 4 million people to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad. 

The programme also supports transnational partnerships between education, training and youth institutions as well as actions in the area of sport to contribute to developing its European dimension and tackle major cross-border threats. 

Moreover, the programme promotes teaching and research activities on European integration through Jean Monnet actions.

Ambitious new programme

In May 2018, the Commission presented its proposal for an ambitious new Erasmus programme, seeking to double the budget to Ä30 billion in the EU’s next long-term budget for the period 2021-2027. 

The aim is to triple the numbers of participants to 12 million, and to make the programme even more international and inclusive, by enhancing accessibility for people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

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