Friday 16 November 2012

More UK students than ever before are choosing to work or study for up to a year in Europe through the Erasmus programme, according to the latest statistics released today by the British Council.

The number of UK students participating in the programme has risen by 6.5 per cent since 2010/11. In the last academic year, 2011/12, UK students undertook 13,668 periods of study or work-placement, the highest number since the programme was launched in 1987.

The Erasmus programme also enables staff at Higher Education institutions to teach or train through short secondments in another European country and 2011/12 saw 2,185 staff taking up this opportunity, the largest number of staff participating to date from the UK.

David Hibler, Erasmus programme manager for the British Council, said ”This is a fantastic achievement for the programme, for higher education institutions and UK students. UK and international employers are increasingly telling us that they value graduates with the sort of skills and experience that Erasmus can give. Taking part in Erasmus is a life-changing experience which can have a positive effect on students’ long-term career prospects. Not only does the programme provide financial assistance for students but the experience helps them to get better degrees and to stand out in the job market.”

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus programme, that is funded by the European Union. For many years there was persistent decline in the rate of participation of UK students in Erasmus, but this is the sixth successive annual increase in UK participation rates, since the British Council took over the management of the programme in the UK.

However, countries with comparable student numbers to the UK have markedly higher participation rates, with Spain, France and Germany sending out two or three times as many Erasmus students. Moreover, modern language students, who are often required to spend part of their degree abroad, still account for a substantial proportion of the UK’s total participating students (40% of the overall number of study participants and 60% of the work placements), which remains unrepresentative of the broader range of disciplines in UK higher education.

David Hibler cautioned that: “Of course it is excellent news to see that the number of UK students participating in the programme is growing. However, we cannot afford to become complacent as the UK remains the sixth biggest sender country in terms of students going abroad, significantly behind Spain, France and Germany. We remain a very popular destination country, but our own students, from all disciplines, need more encouragement to study abroad.”

“It is therefore disappointing to see that take-up of the programme in the UK remains heavily weighted towards language students who are still the ones making the most of this opportunity” David Hibler said. “Students from all disciplines can take part, if their institution makes this possible. We would strongly encourage universities to consider how they can better communicate the benefits of the scheme to all their students and make it easier for non-language students to participate”. 


Notes to editors.


Notes to Editor

About Erasmus

Encouraging students to spend a part of their course abroad has been at the heart of the European Union’s education programmes since the launch of the Erasmus Programme in 1987. Since then, Erasmus has provided almost three million European students with the opportunity to go abroad to study at a higher education institution or train in a company, making it the world’s most successful student mobility programme. The British Council has been the UK’s national agency for the Erasmus programme since 2007.

Overseas experience vital for UK employability

Key findings from The Global Skills Gap (2011, research by British Council and Think Global)

  • Three-quarters (74%) of the 500 business leaders polled worried that young people's horizons are not broad enough to operate in a globalised and multicultural economy. Employers agreed that:  “Unless we better support schools to teach young people to think more globally, the UK is in danger of being left behind by emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil”.
  • 93% of businesses think it is important for schools to help young people develop the ability to think globally. 80% think schools should do more, only 2% think they should do less.
  • In recruiting new employees, more employers (79%) say knowledge and awareness of the wider world is important than those who say the following are important: degree subject and classification(74%), A-level results (68%), or A-level subjects (63%).

The British Council, in collaboration with the sector, wants to do more to reinforce this message to students, to bring together the skills that businesses need with the experiences that young people want. We will work actively with all universities in the UK to promote the programme, but particularly with those where few students take part in Erasmus, which need to consider how they can better communicate the benefits of the scheme and make it easier for non-language students to participate. 

A recent survey (October 2012), conducted for the British Council by Populus, found that 79% of UK adults have not lived or studied abroad for 6 months or more. Of those, 34%believe their career prospects would have been improved if they had. Less than a quarter believe that their prospects would have been unaffected.

The sense of regret is especially strong among under-25s, with 54% believing their lack of international experience has held them back. Geographically, people in Northern Ireland are most likely to feel that their lack of time spent abroad has harmed their prospects (53%), followed by London (42%) and the North-East (41%).

The Future of Erasmus

A new generation of EU education and training programmes will begin in 2014, running to 2020. At present the European Commission’s proposals for ‘Erasmus for All’ (the name may yet change) are under debate in the European Parliament. While the proposals have received a generally favourable initial reaction from the Council of Ministers, much (including the question of the budget) remains to be agreed. It is very likely, nevertheless, that there will be some exciting new developments in opportunities for higher education institutions and students, including mobility outside Europe (the extent and geographical scope yet to be precisely determined) and greater emphasis on funding for structured cooperation between institutions in areas such as curriculum development and joint programmes. The Parliament’s draft report on the Commission’s Proposal, and further amendments to the report can be consulted at:

Latest statistics.

Unfortunately statistics for 2011/12 participation from other Erasmus countries are not yet available, the British Council currently has UK statistics only, because we manage the UK programme. UK statistics are available on request.

For More Information, please contact

Tim Sowula, Snr Press Officer, 0207 389 4871

About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK ’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of nearly £700 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.

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