Gå til indhold
You are here: Home The Ministry The Minister Speeches OLD speeches 2012 The most popular 25-year-old

The most popular 25-year-old

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at the celebration of Erasmus' 25-year anniversary 9 May 2012 at Copenhagen University.

Check against delivery.

Your Royal Highness. Commissioner Vassiliou. Students. Distinguished guests. This is a great celebration.

Erasmus is second to none. I think I can safely say that Erasmus is the most popular 25-year-old in Europe. I recently read the testimonials from Erasmus ambassadors about the importance of their Erasmus experience. It made for interesting reading. Allow me to share a few that struck me.

“There is no doubt in my mind that without the initial chance to explore another EU country as an Erasmus-student, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and more importantly, I would not be who I am.” This was the testimonial from a Spanish student who had gone to Finland via Erasmus.

And a Danish student who had studied in Lithuania said that: “Erasmus made me feel part of European integration – politically, historically and, most importantly, culturally.”

And finally, a short, but concise testimonial from a Dutch student who had been to Italy: “Erasmus was the kick-off for my career”.

There is no doubt that the almost 3 million students who have studied abroad since the inception of Erasmus in 1987 have had the experience of a lifetime. They have learnt more about their subject. They have learnt more about the world. They have learnt more about themselves.

Erasmus has boosted European education

Erasmus has created opportunities for the individual student. But it has also boosted the entire higher education sector in Europe. The Erasmus programme has been of invaluable importance to European internationalisation and has transformed the experience of studying in Europe.

The programme has contributed to the exchange and development of ideas and skills. And I regard the focus on education and internationalisation as the European path to growth and prosperity, and European cohesion.

Right now Europe is faced with great challenges. Debt is high. Growth is low. And jobs all over Europe are being lost. Not least among young people. The European situation calls for more investment in education, not less.

Now more than ever, we need young people with a global outlook and understanding of other cultures and languages. Employers are looking for people with these competences.

This is also apparent from a brand new Danish study where more than 300 private companies were asked about graduates' skills and relevant study abroad. 70 per cent of the companies in the study considered an international outlook as important qualifications when recruiting graduates from higher education.

And more than half the companies predicted that international experience and cross-cultural competences will be even more significant to recruitment in the future than they are today. It clearly shows that companies value young people with the courage to leave the safety-net of home and perfect their skills abroad.

It is therefore only right that the Commission’s proposal for Erasmus for All paves the way for a greater focus on education's importance to society.

The Danish Government supports the Commission’s proposal for new education programmes, including the increase in budget. The proposed budget of 19 billion euro is an increase of 70 per cent compared to current education programmes.

It is an important focus and one we must rightly prioritise.

Looking to the future

But while Erasmus for All offers a new way forward, it is important to say that Erasmus has never remained static.

Throughout its first 25 years:

  • The number of participating countries has increased.
  • More and more students are participating. We passed the 1 million mark in 2002. 2 million in 2009. And we will soon pass 3 million.
  • Teacher exchanges were introduced in 1996.
  • And 5 years ago, student traineeship also became part of the programme.

These are just some of the highlights. And Erasmus must continue to develop. So let us look at the future.

Erasmus for All represents a bold proposal. And the Danish Government shares the views of the Commission on the three important areas for Erasmus in the coming years:

  • Less bureaucracy
  • Increased cooperation with business
  • And the spread of the cooperation outside of Europe.

Less bureaucracy and more mobility; That is something I can vouch for. That was also the agreement when I met with 46 ministerial colleagues 2 weeks ago in Bucharest to discuss the Bologna Process.

In this respect, I would stress in particular the role of the Bologna Process in harmonising university degrees and postgraduate studies – something that for sure has facilitated student exchanges across borders.

At the conference in Bucharest, we adopted a new strategy for student mobility;

With a focus on quality of education, increased employability and strengthened student mobility. And we agreed on a target of 20 per cent of European graduates in 2020 having undertaken a study period or internship abroad. The new Erasmus for All will to a greater extent support the objectives of Europe’s long-term growth strategy. And Danish ambitions are in line with the Commission's proposal for increased focus on strategic partnerships, for example, between higher education institutions and business. It is an important venture that will help improve the employability of our graduates.

And I believe it’s particularly encouraging to see more cooperative opportunities with non-European countries. It accommodates a clear need of our higher education institutions. A strong global dimension will provide the opportunity for cooperation and mobility worldwide. And it can help ensure the appeal of the Erasmus programme in the coming years. For the students. And for society.

But it is not just the framework for Erasmus for All that is important. Educational institutions also face a significant task. It is important that students experience studying or taking an internship abroad as a natural part of their programme. When young people have decided they want to study abroad, there should be a clear framework for how that can happen.

Unfortunately we can see from studies carried out by the Erasmus Student Network that there are still many students facing barriers such as the lack of credit transfer. It is clear that there are some things we need to work on. And with adoption of the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué, we took a step in the right direction. In principle it should not be more difficult to go abroad than to stay at home.

Changing life, changing Europe

Erasmus is without a doubt the most popular EU programme. And with good reason. The impact on Europe, European educational institutions and individual students cannot be overestimated. As the Bulgarian Erasmus ambassador simply said after studying in Germany: “Erasmus changed my life”.

We need Erasmus. Now more than ever. The recent crisis has shown that we must become more creative, more innovative and more global in our outlook. We need a workforce that possesses these skills. The only constant today, is constant change. The jobs of tomorrow require new mindsets. This is the challenge facing Europe. And that is why it is important that we are investing in education and expanding the Erasmus programme. We need a programme that develops and changes students’ lives. Because we need students that can develop and change Europe.

I wish you all a successful Erasmus conference.

Thank you.

last modified Jan 13, 2022