Erasmus+ at Universities

Link between mobility of individuals and strategic change
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Since its launch 36 years ago, Erasmus has become a widely known brand name. Thanks to its reach, the development of funding modules and the objectives formulated in the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education, the educational programme is responsible to an increasing degree for changes in the education sector. This also includes universities which have to react by adapting their organisational structures.

Brands are something we are familiar with; we rely on their quality and want their continuity. But at the same time, their range of influence makes it possible to introduce changes which stimulate advancements in other areas. Since 1987, Erasmus has developed from an exchange programme for students to a driver of internationalisation thanks to the adoption of a wide variety of funding opportunities. 

Erasmus-Charta für die Hochschulbildung 2021-2027.pdf

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ECHE – a basis for further development and the commitment of university administrations

Every seven years, university presidents reapply for the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE). All institutions pledge to support the common European goals set out in the Charter. In 2021, not only short-term mobilities, global exchanges and mixed virtual formats were included in funding opportunities for individual mobilities. Blended Intensive Programmes, the digitalisation of programme management and the promotion of inclusion and sustainable action have also joined the spectrum of subjects addressed by International Offices and their Erasmus coordinators at universities. 

This makes International Offices the university’s gateway to the Erasmus programme, a connective link to the various institutions and interest groups at their universities and programme administrators and points of contact which are responsible for looking after more than 50,000 scholarship holders every year. Erasmus coordinators perform a balancing act between supporting individual scholars, managing the programme but also communicating the university’s important horizontal priorities.

A brand undergoes change

Mobility for study periods in other European countries continues to be the core of the programme. In the most recent programme generations – in the years 2007–2020 – internships abroad and funding for university staff were added to the portfolio. These rather cautious changes and a moderate level of digitalisation in administrative processes have allowed time-appropriate adjustments to be made to administrative structures.

The changeover to the current funding cycle in 2021 saw the inclusion of a wide range of adapted programmes and the formulation of objectives alongside ongoing digitalisation and transition to new administrative databases. Now, the challenge is to raise awareness of this brand change. Erasmus mobility – especially in administration – is no longer «just» about preparing, supervising and following-up on student periods abroad. 

International Offices can only properly fulfil their new role if administrative structures adapt within a reasonable period of time to the changing administrative conditions of the programme. As NA DAAD, we support this process together with the Erasmus+ experts as contact partners, providing opportunities to discuss experiences at regular online and on-site events and acting as an interface to the EU Commission.

Appropriate administrative structures

Regular exchanges – most recently at the Erasmus+ annual meeting in Magdeburg in September 2023 – and a recent survey of the use of funds granted for the organisation of individual Erasmus mobilities (organisational support, OS) show that there is still room for improvement in the programme’s current services shortly before the half-way point is reached. However, the results also indicate that expansion of the programme should be carried out with caution.

Feedback from small and medium-sized universities, especially universities of art and music (60 percent), points to the fact that OS is mainly directed at scholarship holders (this is not usually possible for staff). An estimated 70 percent of available working time is spent on project management, while just under 30 percent is allocated to core elements of the programme – supervision, maintaining university partnerships and marketing. It is striking that 82 percent of respondents state that they organise Erasmus mobilities in their International Offices with three or fewer full-time equivalents. 

The welcome new range of opportunities therefore entails more complex, labour-intensive administrative procedures which are not (as yet) comprehensively reflected in appropriate structures. It is all the more remarkable, then, that for years scholarship holders have confirmed their great satisfaction (96%) with their universities’ support, guidance and organisation, reflecting the great enthusiasm of programme participants.

Distribution of working time at Erasmus+

Working time for marketing, support and partnership management = 27,77 %

Working time for project administration = 69,23 %


The 2021–2027 programme phase brings lots of changes to the Erasmus+ programme. The welcome expansion of funding options for mobilities, their recognition and efforts to promote digitalisation, inclusion, participation and sustainability at the institutional level have also changed the task profile of International Offices and Erasmus coordinators.

At the Erasmus+ annual meeting, coordinators, university administrations, the European Commission and the National Agency discussed current conditions for programme implementation and the complexity of programme management. Initial surveys for the mid-term evaluation also show that the development of the «Erasmus+» brand should not only focus on the (financial) opportunities for scholars; it is also important that changes are manageable and are introduced cautiously, with lead time and involve all those who have made the programme a success so far. As already announced for this programme generation, an evolution and not a revolution will determine the continued success of Erasmus.

Agnes Schulze-von Laszewski
EU02 – Mobility of Individuals
Agnes Schulze-von Laszewski, EU02 – Mobility of Individuals