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A million babies and better job prospects – thanks to Erasmus!

Two new European reports have highlighted the importance of student mobility and internalisation to the continent. Here NIC MITCHELL looks at the Erasmus Impact Study.

And in another blog he considers a paper from the European University Association (EUA) urging European universities to do more to integrate their foreign students.languages-erasmusREVELATIONS that one million babies had been born to Erasmus students since 1987 caught the headlines when the Erasmus Impact Study was released last month.

 The one million babies figure is based on the findings that 27% of Erasmus alumni met their long-term partner during their stay abroad.

 And that’s not the only benefit of going abroad to study or train.

Strengthening key skills

For participating in Erasmus strengthens key skills valued by most employers, such as tolerance, confidence, problem-solving skills, curiosity, knowing one’s strengths/weaknesses, and decisiveness when making a recruitment decision, says the report.

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.

“The new Erasmus+ programme will offer EU grants to four million people between 2014 and 2020, allowing them to experience life in another country through studies, training, teaching or volunteering.”

1 in 10 start their own company

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%.

Broadens horizons

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.

The research was carried out by Berlin-based specialists’ CHE Consult, Brussels Education Services, Compostela Group of Universities and Erasmus Student Network.

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.

'Don't focus just on study abroad" - Hans de Wit

‘Don’t just focus on study abroad” – Hans de Wit

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.

What about internationalisation at home?

Hans 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.

“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,” said Hans.

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.

ALSO SEE our blog To internationalise – Start by integrating your international students’

For more information 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:

Video interview with European Commission spokeswoman Ahrenkilde Hansen , Vieuws

Erasmus report fuels internationalisation debate: Hans de Wit, 10 October 2014 University World News:

 + Words: Nic Mitchell

+ Photos: European Commission