Revelations that one million babies had been born to Erasmus students since 1987 caught the headlines when the Erasmus Impact Study was recently released.
And that’s not the only impact the Erasmus generation of students going abroad to study or train have made over the last two-and-a-half decades.
Strengthening key skills
For participating in Erasmus strengthens to develop key skills valued by most employers, such as tolerance, confidence, problem-solving skills, curiosity, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses.
Unsurprisingly then, Erasmus students are half as likely to face long-term unemployment compared to counterparts who have not studied or trained abroad. Five years after graduation, their unemployment rate is 23% lower.
Increasing job prospects
Androulla Vassiliou, the outgoing European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: “The findings of the Erasmus Impact study are extremely significant, given the context of unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment in the EU. The message is clear: if you study or train abroad, you are more likely to increase your job prospects.”
Students benefitting from Erasmus funding can choose to study or take up a traineeship abroad and the Impact Study reveals that more than one in three Erasmus trainees is offered a position at the enterprise where they do their traineeship and I in 10 has started their own company.
The report also found that the number of employers who considered experience abroad to be important nearly doubled between 2006 and 2013, from 37% to 64%.
Erasmus also offers students broader horizons and social links, says the report, with 40% changing their country of residence or work at least once since graduation, almost double the number of those who were not mobile during studies.
The European Commission study was compiled by independent experts and received feedback from nearly 80,000 respondents, including students and businesses.
Only 1 in 5 studies abroad
But at least one higher education commentator has questioned whether so much effort should be put into schemes like Erasmus, when, at best, only 1 in 5 students studies abroad.
Writing in University World News, Hans de Wit, director of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, and professor of internationalisation of higher education at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, said: “There is no guarantee that study abroad has a positive impact, even though this study gives clear signals that in general it does.”
He was a member of the advisory board of the Erasmus Impact Study, so his call for an ‘internalisation debate’ following the Erasmus report is interesting.
de Wit said more attention should be paid to the majority of students staying at home and pointed out that work placements, rather than study abroad, appear to have “a more positive impact on the development of soft skills” and better employment and career prospects.
Internationalisation for all
“The positive findings of this study should not be an argument in favour of focusing internationalisation efforts on study and placement abroad only. It should on the contrary result in a stronger effort to develop similar effects among non-mobile students: internationalisation for all,” he said.
He also called for study abroad experiences to be ‘embedded’ in a more internationalised curriculum and cited evidence from the United States, which showed the benefits of an active pre-departure orientation experience and counselling during the period abroad to develop intercultural competences.
For more information about the Erasmus Impact study, see:
The Erasmus Impact Study, Effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education institutions
‘Erasmus Impact Study confirms EU student exchange scheme boosts employability and job mobility’, European Commission press release, 22.10.2014:
* This article is an abridged version of a blog that first appeared on the EUPRIO website under the headline “A million babies and better job prospects – thanks to Erasmus!”