Over half of the UK’s Erasmus participants come from just twenty institutions, the British Council’s Chief Executive Martin Davidson revealed today at a reception to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus programme.
Although UK participation rates are growing, this imbalance partially explains why, in terms of overall participation, the UK is still sixth in the European Union. Just under 13,000 students in the UK took part in 2010/11, with between two and three times as many Spanish, French and German participants taking part every year.
Erasmus was created by the European Union in 1987 to help higher education students spend up to a year studying in another European country. It has now supported more than two million students across Europe taking part of their degree course – or, since 2007, a work placement – abroad.
In 1987, the UK sent out 925 students – more than any of the other 11 participating countries -- and around 200,000 UK students have followed in their footsteps. But Britain’s European neighbours have long since overtaken her.
In 2009, more than 10 per cent of students graduating in Spain, six per cent of those in Germany and four per cent of those in France were Erasmus students. In the UK it was less than two per cent. While Spain, France and Germany each sent out well over 30,000 students on placements last year, the UK sent fewer than 13,000.
At a reception attended by Minister of State Rt Hon. David Willetts MP, and Steve Beswick, Director of Education, Microsoft UK, British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson said "The British Council has managed Erasmus in the UK since 2007, and since then we’ve seen numbers of UK participants grow almost 8 per cent year on year. Erasmus offers a tremendous opportunity for the UK’s students – to boost their employability, have a great academic experience, and potentially save themselves thousands of pounds in tuition fees."
"Erasmus is important for the whole UK" Mr Davidson added. "Erasmus gives our next generation the chance to gain vital international skills, contacts, and confidence that we need to be competitive and progress in a global economy. We therefore welcome the government’s announcement to continue financial support for the scheme – and institutions themselves and the private sector must find a way to encourage more students to take the opportunity, especially as Erasmus may expand beyond the EU in future."
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Study abroad offers a huge range of benefits for the students taking part, and also for our universities and the wider UK economy. Students improve their employability, institutions develop their international links and businesses value the wider experience of those who’ve spent time abroad. It’s a win-win for all.
"Over 200,000 UK students have benefitted since the programme began, and my ambition is that many more will follow in their footsteps. That is why I recently announced our continued financial support for both Erasmus and, for the first time, non-Erasmus students, and why we are working with the sector to look at how we increase outward mobility in the future."
Microsoft UK’s director of education, Steve Beswick said "Microsoft is proud to support the Erasmus scheme by offering its students work placements at our offices throughout Europe. We highly value graduates with international experience and believe it is very important for UK students to acquire the skills that can be gained on a work placement abroad and we encourage other companies to pitch in and boost the opportunities for UK students."
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