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EU programme for education, training, youth and sport

Erasmus to Erasmus+: history, funding and future


The “Erasmus” programme was originally established by the European Union in 1987. It looked to promote closer cooperation between universities and higher education institutions across Europe. This meant setting up an organised and integrated system of cross-border student interchange.

Over time, the programme has expanded in its breadth and depth and is now known as “Erasmus+”. Its extended form is a broad umbrella framework which combines former EU’s different schemes for transnational cooperation and mobility in education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Increasingly, it is also looking beyond Europe.

So far between 2014-2021, over 13 million people have taken part in Erasmus+, thanks to enthusiastic take-up of opportunities by staff, students, young people and learners of all ages.


The choice of the name “Erasmus” refers to Erasmus of Rotterdam, a leading scholar and inspiring lecturer during the Renaissance period who travelled extensively in Europe to teach and study at a number of universities. But at the same time, the word “Erasmus” also served perfectly as the acronym for The European Community Action Scheme for Mobility of University Students.


Erasmus+’s current funding period runs from 2021-2027. This follows its first funding period, 2014-2020.

Scope and objectives

The programme's objective is pursued through three “Key Actions”:

  • Key Action 1: Learning mobility of individuals 
  • Key Action 2: Cooperation among organisations and institutions 
  • Key Action 3: Support to policy development and cooperation

Other activities include “Jean Monnet” actions, which support teaching, learning, research and debates on European integration matters, such as on the EU’s future challenges and opportunities.

These objectives are described in detail in the programme guide.


Evolution of the programme

Erasmus has evolved from its initial focus on higher education, to a programme that now spans education training youth and sport.


Erasmus begins as stand-alone programme for European cooperation and mobility which ran through two programme phases between 1987 and 1994.

It becomes the higher education sectoral programme within the broader “Socrates” programme for education (1995-2006) and the Lifelong Learning programme (2007-2013).

Education and training...

EU programmes on education and culture expand, with “Socrates” and “Leonardo da Vinci” covering education and training (in the period 1995-2006) and the "Lifelong Learning” programme succeeding these from 2007-2013.

Education, training, youth and sport

In 2014 the EU creates a single overarching programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport.

And the +

Given its resounding success over the years and the fact that “Erasmus” was far more widely known than the other programme titles, it was decided to extend the “Erasmus” brand name to the whole of the new programme. The “+” is meant to recall that the programme supports more sectors than just higher education as it did at its origins.

Perspectives (2021-2027)

In this second phase, the programme is focus on four overarching priorities

  • supporting the green transition
  • addressing the digital transformation
  • promoting social inclusion and diversity
  • fostering stronger participation in democratic life, common values and civic engagement

New opportunities

With an overall budget of €26.2 billion, Erasmus+ has new opportunities including for