What happened and what’s next: mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme

What happened and what’s next: mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme

Erasmus+ 2014–2020, and its predecessor programmes, are perhaps the most well-respected and successful programmes that have ever been undertaken by the European Union. Indeed Erasmus+ is also a programme that is a centrally important focal point of the work undertaken by many of us working in the international higher education sector.

The programme’s most recent version, Erasmus+, began in 2014 with a budget of €16.45 billion for the period 2014–2020. It aims to provide more than four million people with the “opportunity to gain competence and have a personal socio-educational and professional development through personal training, work experiences or volunteering abroad worldwide”.

On this blog, we’ve covered previous mid-term reports, and contributed to the mid-term review, giving our own perspective on the programme. This blog summarises some of the programme’s key successes, as laid out in the recently released Erasmus+ mid-term evaluation report, which is based on national reports submitted by each programme country, and other research and input. It also outlines the next steps that the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, will take to ensure future success.

What’s happened so far?

According to the most recent evaluation report, released in January 2018, the Erasmus+ programme has been a great success, with demand for the programme greatly exceeding the funding that is available. It is “well on track to achieving its performance indicators”. For example, between 2007 and 2016, the programme and its predecessor funded learning mobility for more than 4.3 million people.

The mid-term evaluation also found that Erasmus+ is bringing about benefits in a number of different ways. For example, practitioners (teachers, trainers, etc) benefited from a number of professional development opportunities by their participation, including wider networking opportunities with their international peers, and increased use of digital resources. Learners (students, apprentices, young people, etc) participating in the programme also have profited in a number of ways including:

  • a shortened transition into employment;
  • an increased willingness to work or study abroad;
  • increased willingness to learn foreign languages;
  • a better perception of the value of their learning;
  • and enhanced student completion rates.

Though perhaps less visible, the evaluation report points to a number of other effects that the programme has had. There is evidence, for example, that the programme’s development has contributed to a more cohesive European Union and enhanced a sense of feeling ‘European’ amongst its stakeholders. As well as highlighting the high level of complementarity between Erasmus+ and other relevant EU policies and programmes such as Horizon 2020 and the European Social Fund, the report also details the important role that Erasmus+ has had in increasing the EU’s global outreach. This includes facilitating the recognition of qualifications between Europe and partner countries, as well as facilitating cooperation across higher education and other national level sectors.

What comes next?

As well as highlighting the considerable benefits that the programme has had, the evaluation report also makes note of a number of changes and improvements that the European Commission will make to the programme to facilitate further success up to 2020.


The Commission will “step up its efforts to make Erasmus+ more accessible to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds or with special needs […] and facilitate the participation of schools and other small scale actors in the programme”. This includes, for example, a new goal of doubling the number of participants in the programme from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2025, exploring plans for developing and financing future programmes at a larger scale, and developing ways to increase support for transnational activities in the adult learning sector.


The evaluation also outlines ways that the Commission will improve the programme management and efficiency of Erasmus+. For example, although mobility actions of Erasmus+ can be seen as cost effective (an EU cost of €15 per day, per learner), there is an understanding that improvements to the “efficiency of decentralised actions with partner countries” need to be made, as these have “specific criteria and fragmented budgets”. There is still a need to improve the usability of procedural and IT management tools, most especially to simplify application and reporting processes. Indeed, the report outlines the need to make improvements to the way data is collected, so that any future decision-making is better informed by evidence.

It is clear that the Erasmus+ programme has successfully brought added value to many if its stakeholders, including the European Union itself. It is a programme though that continues to develop and improve, particularly to reach its full potential by 2020. As such, it is imperative that practitioners working directly or indirectly on the programme, with students, partners and other stakeholders involved with the programme, develop a process to encourage participation and remain up-to-date with the programme’s progress and developments, including within the context of a potential follow-up programme from 2020.

Ross Hudson
EAIE, the NetherlandsRoss is Senior Knowledge Officer at the EAIE.