Erasmus ("European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students") is the European Commission's education programme for Higher Education students, teachers and institutions. It is named after the philosopher, theologian and humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1465-1536) and was introduced in 1987 with the aim of increasing student mobility within the European Community, subsequently the European Economic Area, and the Candidate Country of Turkey.
In 2007, the new Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 replaced the existing Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci, and eLearning programmes which expired at the end of 2006. Erasmus is one of the four sectoral programmes supported under the Lifelong Learning Programme.
The Erasmus action of the Lifelong Learning Programme is now open to the participation of 31 countries: the 27 Member States of the European Union, the three EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), and the Candidate Country of Turkey.
Erasmus is open to all types of higher education institutions, all academic disciplines and all levels of higher education study up to and including the doctorate. 3244 people participated in Erasmus during its first academic year. Now, more than 150,000 people benefit each year from the programme. The Commission and the 31 participating countries celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007.
Erasmus has developed beyond just being an educational programme. It gives many European university students the chance of living for the first time in a foreign country, and it has reached the status of a social and cultural phenomenon. Well over 1.5 million students have so far benefited from Erasmus grants, and the European Commission hopes to reach a total of 3 million by 2012.
Students in higher education may spend a study or work period (from 3 to 12 months) in another participating country in the framework of agreed arrangements with universities and enterprises. They generally receive a grant to help offset the 'mobility costs' of studying or working in another country, such as travel, language preparation and differences in cost of living. Their award depends on several elements which vary from country to country.
Full academic recognition for the study or work period carried out abroad must be ensured before departure. The programme is open to all higher education students (up to and including doctorate) from a participating country, except for students enrolled in their first year of higher education.
Financial support is also given to higher education teaching staff to spend a short period (one week minimum) of fully integrated teaching assignments in a partner university.