The Erasmus Programme is a European Union student exchange programme established in 1987 to assist both cultural and educational diversity in universities and institutions across the EU.
Erasmus allows individuals to study abroad for at least three months or attend training and development courses in another EU country and ensures that any qualifications gained are recognised in your main university or institution.
The Erasmus+ or Erasmus Plus programme is an extension of this which incorporates work experience and larger grants for students wanting to study abroad, as well as incorporating other education schemes from the EU such as the Tempus, Edulink and Comenius schemes.
Across the 37 countries involved in the Erasmus programme, there are more than 4,000 universities and institutions who participate in the programme with more than 3 million students across the EU taking part.
Erasmus programmes allow students to study in an Erasmus-participating institution or university for at least 3 months to an academic year, or complete an internship of at least 2 months in another EU country.
The programme ensures that this time spent studying abroad is recognised as part of the study programme at their main university when they return, giving students an opportunity to study abroad for a short period without having to attend a full course abroad.
There are no extra tuition fees payable for Erasmus students, although there are Erasmus grants available to assist with living expenses for those wanting to take part in the programme.
Applications for Erasmus are made via your current university or institution rather than on an individual basis so you will need to liaise with your student services department about applying.
There are limited places available and places within the programme are allocated on a competitive basis based on a scoring system; so ensure you stick to the guidelines issued to give your application the best chance of succeeding.
To apply you will need to submit several proposal documents to apply for the funding and for the place, which your university will be able to help you with.
It is also common for language proficiency tests to be taken when applying as your options of places to study may be limited by which languages you are able to speak proficiently.
As there are so many institutions taking part in the Erasmus programme in the EU there are many opportunities and places to study, so with all that choice you need to take a few things into account.
Firstly you need to consider which countries you are able to study in with regards to language proficiency as mentioned above. Many European university programmes are conducted or can be conducted in English, meaning if you are a native or fluent English speaker you will be at an advantage.
You also need to consider the kind of programme you want to study. Although it will count towards your degree back home, you will need to ensure that the content you study with Erasmus will supplement and benefit your home studies to get the best from the experience.
Finances are another consideration. Although there are plenty of grant schemes available to help students who want to study abroad with their finances you will still need to be able to support yourself to some extent. The cost of living in another country will need to be considered in your decision.