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The Erasmus Enlargement Process: One Step Ahead

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After 14 years spent waiting for Western Europe to open up her doors, her Eastern neighbours find they are still waiting on the doorstep. But even if the EU is enlarging at a snail's pace, thanks to the Erasmus scheme, Europe's students are steps ahead.

Since the launch of Erasmus in 1987, the programme has been an important initiative for bringing 'ever-closer Union' within reach of a larger public - especially to the young, suave and savvy people that will make the future elite of Europe. Not by chance is the student mobility part of the Erasmus project its best known facet - while other activities like transnational projects and the common European credit transfer system (ECTS) are rather more obscurely known. Among the benefits that today's students receive is a (more or less) professional international office at virtually every European higher education institution, a growing number of courses in English, and a better chance to get studies abroad fully recognized at their home institution. And the weak points of the programme? Undoubtedly the low number of individual grants, making study in the "West" tough for students from Central and Eastern Europe. And then there is the ambiguous reputation of Erasmus itself, seen by some as more of a half-year-long party, rather than a serious step in building a multilingual and intercultural European career.

In terms of Enlargement, Erasmus is a pioneer. In the current period 2000-2006 not only the 12 EU accession countries participate as equal partners, but also non-applicants like Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. The only glaring absence is Switzerland (though, we should add, the Vatican does not take Erasmus students either).

Turkey is going to be full member of Erasmus starting from the academic year 2004/05. The procedure foresees that each Turkish university or higher education college that wants to host or send students will have to get first the so-called Erasmus University Charter as a quality award for its policy and goals in European cooperation. This application happens online on the website; the next deadline is 01 November 2003. Those successful can then apply for student (and teacher) mobility grants at their newly founded national agency ( For the moment, 15 pilot projects between Turkish and EU universities are functioning, in a 'matching' exercice with small-scale student mobilities. The professional and personal contacts that will be established during these Erasmus cooperations, should not be underestimated in view of the decision for or against Turkey's full membership in the EU. A list of participating institutions is given at the end of the article.

While the future borders of the EU are discussed, Erasmus Mundus is being put in place, a new programme perfectly fitting the missionary sprit of the Prodi Commission to export “Europe's finest” to all four corners of the world. ERASMUS Mundus will invite students and postgraduates from outside Europe to European universities. Its mission is to enhance dialogue between cultures and sciences, and tune the European education market into the right shape for competing successfully with universities overseas.

Finally, the elitist ambition of the planned "Erasmus Mundus Masters courses", where the best academic performers from Europe and the world will study alongside each other and, thanks to generous EU funding, hop from one top-rated university to the next, illustrates the new message from Brussels: Only the best will get enough money to work, study, train...and party!


Institutions participating in the EU-Turkey Erasmus scheme:

Dokiz Eylül University - University of Maastricht (NL),

Karadeniz Technical University - University of Ghent (B)

Istanbul University - Humboldt-Universität Berlin (D)

Galatasaray University - Paris I Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (F)