The ERASMUS programme was launched in June 1987 and 3244 participated in its first academic year. Now, more than 150 000 people benefit each year from the programme. The Commission and the 31 participating countries will celebrate its 20th anniversary throughout the year 2007.
The ERASMUS programme, which is arguably one of the best-known Community actions, encourages student and teacher mobility, and promotes transnational cooperation projects among universities across Europe. The scheme currently covers nine out of every ten European higher education establishments. It was named after Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 – 1536), who was a Dutch humanist and theologian.
ERASMUS has developed beyond just being an educational programme. It gives many European university students the chance of living for the first time in a foreign country, and it has reached the status of a social and cultural phenomenon. Well over 1.5 million students have so far benefited from Erasmus grants, and the European Commission hopes to reach a total of 3 million by 2012.