Erasmus: My First 30 Years
International experiences that make a difference and promote solidarity and cultural, historical, and scientific values, facilitating the process of European integration. On 9 May 2016, as part of Europe Day celebrations, Erasmus commemorated its first 30 years by honoring Sofia Corradi, the professor who established the European program that since 1986 has seen the participation of more than four million students. The adoption of Erasmus by the institutions of the European Union has decisively contributed to the development of university students’ international mobility. Since then, pursuing studies abroad that are recognized by the university system means, for the most part, participating in the Erasmus program. It is an experience able to enhance the education of youth, facilitating integration and the transfer of know-how among nations.
Confirming its value are the AlmaLaurea data, which demonstrate how these experiences of studying abroad make it possible for the graduates involved to increase their chances of finding work by 10% within a year of graduation. And this all things being equal. But how many Italian students choose to study abroad? Of all the 2015 graduates, 10% had some study experience abroad that was recognized as part of their schooling. The most popular destination is Spain, chosen by 25% of the traveling students, followed by France, Germany, and Great Britain.
Who are these graduates who choose to participate in Erasmus?
AlmaLaurea’s 28th report on the profile of graduates describes them. From the survey it emerges that among the graduates who complete the entire 3+2 course of study and participate in studies abroad, the Erasmus experience most often takes place during the two years of specialization rather than during the first level. Of the first-level graduates, the recognized studies abroad involved about 7% of the students, without any apparent difference between those students who intend to continue with the two years of specialization and those who plan on stopping at the first level. For the single-cycle degrees the mobility regarded 14% of the graduates. The same percentage was found for the two-year master’s students. Other 5% did not participate during the two-years of specialization but had already done so during the first level. So, in all 19 graduates out of 100 had some kind of experience studying abroad. Among those studying for a master’s degree, the frequency of studies abroad is close to the objective set for 2020 in Europe (20%).
The participation in studies abroad varies significantly according to the faculty, reflecting long-entrenched imbalances. Recognized university studies abroad are most frequent for language students (“only” 30 students out of 100), while in all the other faculties, except for medicine and dentistry (18%), mobility regards less than 15% of graduates. The participation rates are especially low for graduates in healthcare degrees (2%), teaching (2.9%), and physical education (3.3%).
The survey of 2015 graduates also confirms the influence of the university’s location on the probability of participation in studies abroad. Of the 71 schools in the study, the universities in northeastern Italy in general have a higher percentage of graduates with recognized courses taken abroad (14%). In contrast, universities in the south or on the islands have fewer mobility networks and therefore fewer studies abroad (7% and 8% respectively).
Another element that continues to be related to foreign studies programs has to do with socio-family origins. In fact, the level of instruction achieved by the parents is a selective factor affecting the probability of access to studies abroad. 16% of graduates who have had this experience have both parents with university degrees and 6% have parents who did not complete high school. Social class also plays an important role. In fact, for families with lower levels of disposable income the idea of a period of time abroad is seen as a burdensome expense that Erasmus scholarships or other sources of financing cannot completely compensate.