Erasmus Mobility over Time

The Erasmus Program is a European Union (EU) student exchange program that has been  established since 1987. Till now over 3 million students have benefited from the program. The flows of students between countries indicate a connection between those countries. For example, a higher number of students moving between certain countries indicates a stronger relation between them. Besides, it is interesting to find out the most attractive countries that students are interested to go.

In this article the following two aspects are being investigated:

  • Proportion of German students went to European countries for studying, and its changes  between year 2008 to 2013.
  • The ranking of the countries in terms of the number of erasmus students that come to that country, and its changes between year 2008 to 2013.

Proportion of German students went to European countries for studying

Regarding the general overview of student mobility, Germany has the highest number of participation in Erasmus. Therefore we focus on the flow from Germany to other European countries.

Figure 1 shows the percentage of German Erasmus students that went to different European countries between 2008 to 2013.

Figure 1: Proportion of German students went to European countries for studying

To explore to what extent the flow of students between countries is stable over time, we looked at the difference in the percentage between consecutive years. This difference was calculated by subtracting the percentage of previous year from the percentage of the considered year (e.g. difference_of_2011 = percentage_of_2011 – percentage_of_2010). (Figure 2)

Figure 2: Differences in the percentage between consecutive years

From Figure 2 we can observe that almost all the differences are close to 0. To make it clearer we plotted the same data into a Probability Density Function (PDF), as shown  below.

Figure 3: Differences distribution

After analyzing the table and plot above, we found the following highlights:

  • Most percentage changes are close to zero, this means the amount of students that went from Germany to other countries remains stable through the years.
  • Germany – Switzerland is an outlier which changed a lot from year 2010 to 2011.

Why is Germany-Switzerland, not following the common pattern?

The relationship between Germany and Switzerland appears first time in the dataset in year 2010. After that the percentage of German students going to Switzerland increase
d to 1.5% by 2013. 

According to the available documents in the internet, Switzerland, which does not belong to European countries, has a unstable relationship with EU. It may lead to the large fluctuation in the number of participants of Erasmus. These facts might lead to the formation of Switzerland as an outlier.

Key facts from the history of the Swiss participation in the Erasmus program:

  • 1992-1996: full participation of Switzerland in Erasmus.
  • 1996-2010: indirect participation (no contractual basis).
  • 2007: bilateral agreement between EU and Switzerland about full participation in LLP.
  • 2011: start of the direct participation. 

How does the future looks like?

Due to the outcome of the federal vote on February 9, 2014 and following the country’s anti-immigration referendum in 2014, the EU suspended Switzerland’s membership of Erasmus+.

The Swiss higher education institutions can therefore not participate in Erasmus+ for the time being. The student exchange with the partner universities continued in the framework of the “Swiss-European Mobility Programme” with bilateral exchange agreements.

Most attractive countries

In order to find out the most attractive countries, the ranking of the countries has been done based on the total number of erasmus students that come to the certain country.

Figure 4 : Ranking of European countries in terms of the number of coming students

The plot above shows the change of the rank of each participant country between 2008 and 2013. For example, Spain is always number 1.

Particular highlights from rank plot in Figure 4:

1) The rank of attractive countries is considerably stable.

From this plot we might conclude that the positions remain stable through the years,  since the top 10 attractive countries did not change a lot. In order to prove the validity of this statement, we use Rank Correlation Coefficient, to measure the difference of rank between neighboring years. If the rank remain similar the coefficient will be high(up to 1.0) and it will be low (close to 0) when they are dissimilar. As shown below (Figure 5), the rank coefficient is near to one, which support the statement that ranks remain similar and do not change much.


Figure 5: Rank coefficients


Figure 6: Top 15 attractive European countries with highlight Poland and Belgium

2) Poland’s rank is growing fast, reaching the 6th place by 2013.

With a top 15 attractive countries plot as shown in Figure 6, it would be clearer to see that Poland went from the 13th place in 2008 to the 6th place in 2013. After looking into the data, we found that the countries which had the highest number of Erasmus students go to Poland in the years 2008-2013 mostly from the countries like Spain, Turkey, Germany, France and Portugal. We also confirmed that  there is no specific increase of students coming from one of those countries to Poland, but an overall growth.

According to a research driven by the Department of Tourism Economics and Organisation, University School of Physical Education, Poznan, Poland. There are the most important factors for students to choose Poland as Erasmus preferred destination.

  • There are number of Polish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to participate in the program.
  • A desire for a cross-cultural experience and tourist attractions of the destination.
  • The easy availability of the scholarships that allows covering the basic costs the students happen to bear while staying in their host country.

3) The rank of Belgium was around 10th place before 2010, and it was around 20th place between 2010 and 2012. In 2013 it was back at the 10th place.

According to the report from Erasmus Union in 2012-2013, here are the possible reasons of this phenomenon.

  • Since 1996 Erasmus has financed specialized courses such as less used language (e.g. regional languages in Europe), to help the incoming students know the linguistics and culture of the host country better.
  • In 2011-2012, around 435 Intensive Language Courses were launched in 26 countries, in which Belgium was the part. Nearly 48000 Erasmus students have been part of intensive course since 1999. 6631 students participated in an intensive language course in 2011-2012, it was 5872 in previous year, this resulting in a 13%  increase. The number of intensive language courses increased to 465 in 2012-2013. There was 7% increase compared to the previous years.
  • Belgium supports international languages like Dutch, French, German and English in social and academics sectors. Therefore it could successfully attract the erasmus students for the language courses.


Authors: Amani Gaddamedi, Denisse Mendoza, Qianhong Ye

University Koblenz-Landau


Data source:

Acronyms for country names:

References (Retrieved Dec 2016 / January 2017).

Teichler, Ulrich, Irina Ferencz, and Bernd Wächter, eds. “Mapping mobility in European higher education.” (2011).

EU Commission. “Erasmus–Facts, Figures & Trends. The European Union support for student and staff exchanges and university cooperation in 2009/2010.” (2011).

European Union. Erasmus: Facts, Figures & Trends: the European Union Support for Student and Staff Exchanges and University Cooperation in 2010/2011. Publications Office of the European Union, 2012.

EU Commission. “Erasmus–Facts, Figures & Trends. The European Union support for student and staff exchanges and university cooperation in 2011/2012.” Publications Office of the European Union 2013

EU Commission. “Erasmus–Facts, Figures & Trends. The European Union support for student and staff exchanges and university cooperation in 2012/2013.” Publications Office of the European Union 2014

Facts, Erasmus. “Figures & Trends: The European Union support for student and staff exchanges and university cooperation in 2013-2014.” Brussels: European Commision http://ec. europa. eu/education/library/statistics/erasmus-plus-factsfigures_en. pdf (stranica posjećena 25.01. 2016) (2014).


Recent Posts

Recent Comments




    qianhongye Written by:

    Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *