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The ERASMUS Phenomenon – Symbol of a New European Generation?

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Benjamin Feyen and Ewa Krzaklewska

In 2012, the ERASMUS programme celebrated its 25 th anniversary. As one of the best-known initiatives of the EU, it has already enabled almost three million students to spend a part of their studies abroad. But ERASMUS is more than just a simple academic exchange programme: designed to contribute to the creation of a «People’s Europe», it has become a successful political instrument for shaping generations of European students. This interdisciplinary volume attempts to explain the fascination behind ERASMUS. The authors examine the role of student mobility within the European integration process and judge its impact on how young citizens identify with Europe. Is there a «Generation ERASMUS», and what characteristics does it have? Can ERASMUS serve as a symbol for «new» Europeans?

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9The ERASMUS Programme and the ‘Generation ERASMUS’ – A Short Overview Benjamin Feyen and Ewa Krzaklewska In 2012 the ERASMUS programme celebrated its 25th anniversary. During its quarter century of existence it has turned into one of the most visible and popular initiatives of the European Union (EU). The scale of the programme is doubtlessly impressive: Having started in 1987 with the small number of 3244 students from 11 countries1, today ERASMUS enables around 230,000 students per year2 to spend three to twelve months abroad in order “to pursue enrich- ing learning experiences in other countries”3. By now, close to three million students from more than 4000 higher education institutions4 all over Europe have participated in ERASMUS, making the programme “the best-known and largest exchange programme in the world” (European Union 2012: 8), as the EU itself emphasises. Despite the programme’s obvious success, however, it should not be over- looked that ERASMUS did not meet all its goals. Indeed there have been – and still are – certain issues that have rightly been criticised. Mainly due to a rather small budget, from the very beginning the number of students participating in the programme has been much lower than the European Commission had initially set as the target (see e.g. Feyen in this volume). In 2012, around 4% of all students in the 33 participating countries5 received an ERASMUS grant during their studies, while the total annual budget amounts to over 450 million euro6. Neither can this number of 4% be considered...

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