The Rising Popularity of Erasmus and its Top Challenges for International Offices

challenges of erasmus

Why is the Erasmus+ program considered one of the most successful initiatives of the European Commission? And what are its top benefits and challenges for the higher education sector? 

The idea behind the Erasmus+ program was originally conceived by Italian pedagogue, Sofia Corradi, in 1958, when she tried to convince European universities to set up an exchange program as part of their study options. 

Having had the opportunity to go on an exchange herself, she recognized the positive impact and valuable benefits of living abroad, particularly on her outlook in life and chances of finding a job. 

After a trial version of the program, it was fully launched in 1987 for higher education students in Europe and since then it has been considered one of the major successes of the European Union. 

Several studies have found that students taking part in an Erasmus+ exchange program have improved their: 

  • Language and interpersonal skills 
  • Personal and soft skills, such as self-confidence and maturity 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Academic attainment  
  • Employability 

Today, the Erasmus+ program continues to grow in popularity, not just amongst students but amongst staff too.  

The Erasmus+ program now supports the mobility of higher education staff to enable them to develop innovative pedagogical and curriculum design skills.  

Evidence has shown that 96% of higher education staff who have completed a mobility have used the opportunity to spread new knowledge within their institutions. Additionally, 93% of staff said that they have learned good new practices. 

Through the Erasmus+ program, the European Commission is trying to tackle specific issues such as: 

  • Reducing unemployment, especially among young people 
  • Promoting adult learning, especially for new skills and skills required by the labor market 
  • Encouraging young people to take part in European democracy 
  • Supporting innovation, cooperation, and reform 
  • Reducing early school leaving 
  • Promoting cooperation and mobility with the EU’s partner countries 

Since its origins, a total of nine million people have had the opportunity to study, train, volunteer, or gain professional experience abroad and it had been estimated before the COVID-19 outbreak that the Erasmus+ initiative was expected to support two million higher education students by 2020.  

Unfortunately, alongside its undeniable benefits for both students and staff, the program also comes with a set of complex bureaucratic challenges for the staff managing those mobilities, which the Erasmus Without Paper initiative will try to overcome in the upcoming years. 

Top challenges for staff managing mobilities 

1. Increased workload 

The current Erasmus+ exchange program is considered over-complicated and the workflows are often found to be repetitive, inefficient, and time consuming. 

A study indicated that 89% of staff found the workload surrounding the management of Erasmus+ exchanges very high, and more than two thirds expressed that the changes introduced with Erasmus+ have only increased the volume of work. 

2. Lack of resources 

In the UK, 64% of mobility programs are delivered by teams of five or fewer staff, with 26% operating with a team of up to two members of staff, and 38% operating with three to five staff. 

Considering the shortage of personnel, the coordination of the Erasmus+ program, including the manual transfer of student data and information between institutions, leads to intensive manual work that is prone to human error. 

3. Manual processes 

Coordinating the administration of incoming and outgoing Erasmus+ students requires administrative staff to navigate manual processes that involve handling different kinds of data, information, and documents. 

These tasks usually include: 

  • Managing diverse sets of regulations 
  • Converting different grading systems 
  • Working with different academic and administrative calendars 

In addition to understanding and managing this multitude of international regulations, grading systems, and calendars, international office staff must manually handle student applications to exchange programs and partner institutions, which can be challenging when relying on paper forms and multiple tools.  

4. Reliance on physical paperwork 

As mentioned, the Erasmus+ program currently relies on the facetoface exchange of documents and information in paper format.  

Students are required to hand in their applications in person to the international office staff with no errors and on a timely manner in order to take part in the mobility program. 

5. Difficulty reporting 

A challenge that arises from relying on manual processes and handling physical paperwork is to have easy access to all international mobility files when needed.  

Reporting on mobilities is difficult without the ability to access and pull data and information from one central repository in real time. 

6. Meeting student expectations 

Today, students are less willing to engage with paper-based forms or navigate a university’s bureaucracy to obtain signatures and stamps.  

Students may become frustrated when their applications are rejected due to errors in the process, such as missing information or amendments to the application, which requires students to reapply with a new corrected application. 

To learn more about the Erasmus Without Paper initiative and how to implement it at your institution, download your free copy of the Erasmus Without Paper: How to Make it Happen white paper. 


QS Unisolution: EWP technology partner   

QS Unisolution is an official technology partner of the Erasmus Without Paper (EWP) project, which is funded by the European Union Foundation. Our MoveON solution is designed to support the changes introduced by the European Commission in Erasmus+ to help clients connect their mobilities with the Erasmus Network.  

MoveON is equipped to exchange all data with the EWP Network so that staff can continue to manage all data in the MoveON solution, making administration easier, quicker, and more efficient. The solution also helps to manage workflows for Erasmus+ and gives users the ability to use the ready-made Erasmus-compliant templates such as the Learning Agreement and Grant Agreement.  

For more information, please contact [email protected]. 

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