The European Commission happily announced that more than 250 000 students, a record-high number, went abroad for study or placement with Erasmus grants in 2011-12. This brings the cumulative number of Erasmus beneficiaries in the past 26 years, since its launch in 1987, above the 3 million quantitative target set by the European Commission.
Building on the success of Erasmus, Erasmus+, the new generation of EU programmes for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020, sets an even more ambitious goal of funding 4 million people to “study, train, teach or volunteer abroad” in the next seven years. This seemingly unreachable goal must be understood against the backdrop that Erasmus+ (formerly known as Erasmus for All) is not just a continuation of the current Erasmus programme, but an all-inclusive framework programme that will replace the current Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig) and bring it together with Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the bilateral cooperation programmes with industrialised countries. The new mega programme is expected to receive 40% more funding than the current education and training mobility programmes and have a budget of around EUR 14.5 billion (2014-2020) to support mobility of all kinds for all people.
In late May, the Commission also released the cumulative numbers of Erasmus Mundus master’s students (13 957) and Erasmus Mundus doctoral candidates (1 005) for the period 2004-2013. These figures, plus the 2 449 Erasmus Mundus scholars who benefited from the same flagship programme between 2004 and 2010, add up to a total of 17 411 Erasmus Mundus scholarships.
What will count towards the 4 million target for Erasmus+ in the next seven years is not clearly expressed at this stage. What is rather clear is that Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus will not reach this goal without taking Leonardo da Vinci and the like with them. In this respect, Erasmus+ is perhaps a suitable title for the new programme in which a crucial first step is to sum up all the numbers of mobility participants in the various sub-programmes.