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Reflections on the effectiveness and value of Erasmus students learning experience during their plac


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Title: Reflections on the effectiveness and value of Erasmus students learning experience during their plac

Reflections on the effectiveness and value of
Erasmus students learning experience during
their placement abroad
  • Dr Barend Schutte, Margaret Jenness, Lilian
    Winkvist-Noble, Imane Laasri and Anita Gonzalez

Overall EU context
  • The European Union is again going through a very
    difficult period.
  • The Irish have just voted No in a referendum
    on the Lisbon Treaty.
  • Last week at the European Council, leaders
    agreed that another period of reflection was
  • The European Commission has been trying to
    promote Active European Citizenship.
  • Documents produced by the Commission talks about
    how ERASMUS has enhanced students perceptions
    of being European citizens. (European
    Commission, 2007 1)
  • The EU does not have a competence in the field
    of education, that is the responsibility of
    member states.

  • The EU hasnt been having a very easy time in
    the last few years.
  • Nevertheless, in 2007 we celebrated the 50th
    anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. During the
    celebrations the EU institutions produced
    publicity material highlighting what the EU has
    done for us as citizens and the European
    Commission describes the Erasmus programme as
  • The ERASMUS programme stands out as one of the
    most concrete and popular examples of the
    progress achieved during fifty years of European
    integration (European Commission, 2007 1)

  • The European Commission also talks about the
    Erasmus programme as a driver for modernising
    Europes higher education systems (European
    Commission, 2007) and the Commission is looking
    to further reinforce this role and the importance
    of the scheme.
  • Erasmus has been and remains a key factor in the
    internationalisation and Europeanisation of
    higher education (European Commission, 2007 1)
  • The European Commissions vision is that
    participation in the Erasmus programme should be
    the general rule, rather than the exception, for
    both students and teachers (European
    Commission, 2008 1)

The Lifelong Learning Programme2007 - 2013
  • The aim of the new programme is to contribute
    through lifelong learning to the development of
    the Community as an advanced knowledge society,
    with sustainable economic development, more and
    better jobs and greater social cohesion. It aims
    to foster interaction, cooperation and mobility
    between education and training systems within the
    Community, so that they become a world quality

Background of LLP
  • There are two major processes currently affecting
    higher education across Europe
  • The Lisbon Strategy 2000, a pillar of European
    Union policy, relaunched in 2005
  • The Bologna Process, in which the European
    Commission is a key stakeholder and provider of
    policy expertise and funding, but not the main

The Lisbon Strategy
  • The Lisbon Strategy aimed to deal with the low
    productivity and stagnation of economic growth in
    the EU, through the formulation of various policy
    initiatives to be taken by all EU Member States.
  • In particular, this included modernising the
    social model, investing in people and combating
    social exclusion. The goal of the Strategy is to
    make the EU "the most competitive and dynamic
    knowledge-driven economy in the world capable of
    sustainable economic growth with more and better
    jobs and greater social cohesion by 2010
  • (March, 2000, EU Heads of States and Governments)

The Bologna Process
  • There are forty-six countries signed up to the
    so-called Bologna Declaration of 1999 looking for
  • convergence (not harmonisation) of European
    higher education through common structures and
  • creation of a European Higher Education Area by
  • Areas where the Bologna Process affect higher
    education systems include
  • enhancing quality in HE across Europe
  • removing barriers to student and teacher
  • promoting lifelong learning and guidance
  • encouraging language learning

Knowledge Triangle
  • Research, education and innovation is a core
    factor in European efforts to meet the ambitious
    Lisbon goals. Numerous programmes, initiatives
    and support measures have been implemented in
    support of the development of the knowledge
    economy and society in Europe.

Structure of The Lifelong Learning Programme
  • The LLP is made up of several different
    programmes offering a variety of opportunities
  • Comenius
  • Erasmus
  • Leonardo
  • Grundtvig
  • Transversal Study Visits
  • Jean Monnet
  • Youth in Action

The Erasmus Programme
  • Launched in 1987, Erasmus is the European
    Commission's flagship educational programme for
    Higher Education students, teachers and
    institutions. The Programme encourages student
    and staff mobility for work and study, and
    promotes trans-national cooperation projects
    among universities across Europe.
  • With a budget of 450 million per annum there are
    31 participating countries
  • the 27 Member States of the European Union
  • the 3 European Economic Area countries (Iceland,
    Liechtenstein and Norway)
  • the candidate country (Turkey)

  • To achieve a significant increase in student and
    staff mobility between European Higher Education
  • To increase the quality of the Higher Education
    in Europe, and strengthen the European Dimension
    in the Higher Education in Europe
  •   To promote broad and lasting
    inter-institutional cooperation
  •   To contribute to the concept of a people's
  •   To contribute to the economic and social
    development of Europe through the creation of a
    significant number of higher education graduates
    with direct experience of intra-European

  • Mobility is seen as key within both the Bologna
    Process and the Lisbon Strategy
  • The London Communiqué issued after the Bologna
    Process summit in May 2007 reaffirmed that
    Mobility of staff, students and graduates is one
    of the core elements of the Bologna Process,
    creating opportunities for personal growth,
    developing international cooperation between
    individuals and institutions, enhancing the
    quality of higher education and research, and
    giving substance to the European dimension
  • Greater mobility brings increased career
    opportunities for students and teachers in the
    European employment market
  • Ambitious targets have been set against all
    mobility programmes including a three million
    target set against the Erasmus Programme
  • The UK must increase student mobility to 38,280
    by 2011. Currently fewer than 7000 UK students
    go on Erasmus.

Participation Rates

(figures from Rapid Press Releases Europa 21
May 2008)
Facts Figures
  • 9 out of 10 universities in Europe participate
    in the Programme
  • Business studies is still the most popular
    subject area for Erasmus students.
    Languages/philological sciences and social
    sciences occupy the second and third spots.
  • Efforts are made to increase the average grant
    that students get from the Erasmus budget. The UK
    average monthly grant amounted to 440/month in
    2007/8, and is expected to further increase in
    the current year

Why go?
  • Global job market employability
  • The value of a students international
    experience goes beyond purely the acquisition of
    language it lies in the ability to see business
    and personal issues from other than your own
    cultural perspective.
  • (Charles Macleod, Head of UK Resourcing,
    Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Source British Council
    Website, 2008)
  • International perspective
  • Non discrimination objectives
  • gender equality
  • integration of disabled students and staff
  • enhancement of social and economic cohesion
  • combating of xenophobia and racism

UK Perspective
  • More institutions should recognise the value of
    the period of study abroad and when the national
    credit system for England is developed following
    the recommendation from the Burgess Review, it
    needs to be geared towards learning outcomes that
    offer the chance to recognise fully any periods
    of study abroad. Bill Rammell emphasized that
    all our efforts must concentrate on ensuring
    that by the end of their courses students are in
    the best position to get a job. And there is no
    doubt that more employment opportunities are open
    to those who have the skills which can only be
    enhanced by a period of study abroad when
    students are, often for the first time, in a
    position to have to negotiate their way in a
    foreign country, in a foreign language and have
    to adapt to completely different ways of working
  • (Bill Rammell, The Higher Education Minister at
    Erasmus and Graduate Employability The Value of
    an International Dimension Conference at Kings
    College, June 2007)

Going Forward
  • Ján Figel, European Commissioner for education,
    training, culture and youth, stressed that
    Europe needs more and better mobility at all
    levels, and Erasmus is an excellent way forward.
    Erasmus brings improved knowledge, better
    cooperation and intercultural skills for its
    participants, and through them ultimately
    benefits all Europeans. In particular, I welcome
    that students in the new member states are
    increasingly taking up what Erasmus offers them.
    The European Commission's vision is that
    participation in the Erasmus programme should be
    the general rule, rather than the exception, for
    both students and teachers.
  • (13/05/2008, Rapid Release)

Data collected
  • Quantitative Data
  • By using an electronic questionnaire comprising
    25 questions, we surveyed 3 cohorts of SSU
    students (65 students) who have been on a
    placement abroad between 2004 and 2008. The
    majority of these students were abroad as part of
    the Erasmus programme and they all spent one full
    academic year abroad.
  • Qualitative data
  • Students on placements abroad take a unit called
    International Placement Issues. As part of that
    unit they write an essay on their experiences,
    mainly in relation to culture shock. We have
    read through 64 of those reports and highlighted
    some of views that are emerging in relation to
    the students views on their year abroad.
  • We conducted focus groups with 5 students in May
  • We have 2 students with us today who have had
    first hand experience of the Erasmus scheme.

Main themes covered
  • The perceived effectiveness and value of an
    ERASMUS placement amongst SSU students
  • Was the option of an ERASMUS placement a deciding
    factor in informing student choice when deciding
    which course to enrol on
  • Examples of good practice which could be adopted
    from the ERASMUS host institutions
  • Should the ERASMUS programme be more actively
    encouraged in the UK
  • Does the ERASMUS programme contribute to the
    process of internationalising UK higher education?

The Tone of the Essays
  • Overwhelmingly positive
  • No reason to focus on the positive unless
    genuine (impressing lecturers?)
  • Analysis of expressions used
  • lifetime experience
  • milestone in my life
  • a life-changing experience
  • fully enjoyed
  • best year in my life
  • an unforgettable experience
  • once in a lifetime opportunity
  • a memorable experience
  • made me a stronger person

Overcoming Stereotypes / Prejudice
  • stereotypes are not reliable conceptions
  • broadened my horizons
  • an excellent personal and academic way to
    discover and learn a new culture
  • my experience helped me to discover not only new
    culture and people but also myself
  • will open my eyes to the hundreds of different
    cultures and traditions around the world
  • I acknowledged the differences in cultures
    on a greater scale than imagined
  • opened my eyes to how differently people live
    and also how people adjust and change to suit the
    surrounding culture and lifestyle

Overcoming Stereotypes / Prejudice
  • I am more tolerant and flexible
  • no society is perfect, all have something to
    learn from the others
  • I am more enriched culturally
  • a great and eye-opening experience
  • cross cultural adaptation
  • greater tolerance of differences
  • more critical toward ones own country
  • less ethnocentric
  • less clichés about the host country
  • This would greatly enhance cooperation at all
    levels within Europe

The Inclusion of a year abroad as a Deciding
  • The vast majority of students indicated that they
    chose their course because it included a year
  • A sample of comments
  • One of the main appeals to the International
    Business Management course was the prospect
    of studying abroad
  • For my second year of University (BA
    International Business Management) I was given
    the opportunity to study in another country for a
    whole year
  • When deciding to study for a degree in
    International Business Management one of the main
    reasons for my choice was the fact that I had the
    opportunity to study abroad for a year as part of
    the course

Positive comments about the Erasmus programme
  • The best thing is the people you meet, the
    friendships you make and the experiences that you
    share together they will stay with you for
    life. If you have not done this then you will not
    understand how fantastic it really is.
  • The chance to travel and actually get financial
    help to do so.
  • Experience, learning to be more independent.
  • It gives you the chance to experience student
    life from another countrys perspective and helps
    with dealing with people from different

  • Gaining a new perspective on every element of
    life education, work, relationships.
  • While I struggled when I was there, was homesick
    and lonely, looking back in hindsight it was
    lovely and I would take the opportunity again and
    I think I would be better prepared in the future
    if I had to do the same sort of thing as part of
    my job.
  • It was an amazing year despite my experience at
    X university which was most awful and I felt
    truly unhappy and ill.

Negative comments about the Erasmus programme
  • Not easy fitting in and learning new system.
  • The organization.
  • The credit system that differs from one country
    to another.
  • Not receiving the grant on a monthly basis (or
    somehow other regular) basis.

  • Lack of places available to go to or the cost of
    going to some countries.
  • Boredom and expensive, homesickness.
  • Different system difficult studying, needed
    high knowledge of the language.
  • Pressure to pass all classes in a different
  • Too much work.
  • They were rather unorganised some teachers did
    not know much English and could not understand my

  • There needs to be big improvements in the
    administration, eg by having a universal grading
    system for credits.
  • The needs to be more check up and liaison
    between the home university and the host
  • When students re-enter their home university,
    thats when you experience the biggest culture
    shock of all. You need further support when
    re-entering, eg when credits are down. In the
    final year you are almost playing catch up for
    the rest of the year.
  • Tutors should go abroad and see how students are

Examples of good practice as identified by the
students surveyed
  • Create an association for exchange students and
    organise trips in the UK.
  • They arranged for us to work with Finnish
    companies while we were there, also visits to
    Nokia. This gave us experience of how to
    interact with professional people.
  • I had a mentor for the duration.
  • They arranged group outings so that people could
    get to know each other.
  • Put majority of exchange students in the same
    class so that they can meet lots of people from
    different countries.

How long should the placement be?
How sufficient were your foreign language skills
for your year abroad?
How much did your foreign language skills improve
during your year abroad?
Do you think the ERASMUS scheme should be more
actively promoted in the UK?
Do you have any views on whether the ERASMUS
scheme contributes to the internationalisation of
higher education?
  • I think it does. In Sweden we were working in
    groups with maybe 5 different nationalities at
    one time. From this everyone has a different
    opinion on how things work and it is good to hear
    multicultural views.
  • It certainly does! Due to the grant it
    encourages the youth to internationalise more
    than they would/could otherhow
  • Yes, and its a great thing. Globalisation is a
    reality and unless schemes like this are promoted
    to all students we could end up with graduates
    with little cultural intelligence and ultimately
    ethnocentrism as they know no other.

  • Of course it does, as it encourages and helps
    students to travel and take the opportunity to
    gain foreign experience.
  • It was a completely unique experience. No
    matter how hard it was at the time, it makes you
    a stronger, more mature, well-rounded,
    open-minded person. You almost become

An Erasmus experience in the UK
  • The decisive factor that motivated me to
    undertake such an academic course International
    Business with languages option
  • Possibility to spend a year abroad
  • Employability factor showing qualities that
    employers look for
  • e.g. keen on taking on new challenges, adapting
    to new environments, mixing with people from
    different cultural backgrounds

  • The reason for coming to the UK
  • English, the language of business
  • Perfect knowledge of Business is not sufficient
    culture is a key element to succeed in a business
  • We tend to have a human instinct that 'deep
    inside' all people are the same - but they are
    not. Therefore, if we go into another country and
    make decisions based on how we operate in our own
    home country - the chances are we'll make some
    very bad decisions.
  • Dr Hostfede cultural dimensions
  • In an increasingly competitive business world,
    those who understand different cultures will have
    the edge.
  • (Kahn-Panni et al., 4 2003)

A symbolic and enriching year
  • The path to the independence
  • leaving home and home country
  • first working experience was in the UK
  • Enhancement of my personality
  • increased self esteem/self confidence
  • Auto analysis of strengths, weaknesses and
  • Meeting new people from all the continents,
    building new friendships

A new but efficient education system
  • The UK education system allows more autonomy to
    the students
  • Let the student gain a deeper understanding
    about a particular subject through research
  • Allow the student to explore different sorts of
    materials journals, books, newspapers
  • Significant choice of options
  • opportunity to learn a new language from scratch
    (stage 1 to 10), or studying a different subject
    e.g. marketing, European movies,

  • A close tutor student relationship
  • Made me feel at ease rapidly
  • Made me forget the language barrier and
    contributed to a substantial improvement of my

Erasmus experience a philosophy of respect and
  • Less stereotypes or assumptions about a
    particular country, culture, people more
    comprehension, empathy and tolerance
  • Going through the phases of culture shock has
    been beneficial
  • Flexibility vs. fear of the unknown
  • Open mindedness vs. ethnocentrism
  • None culture is better than another they are
    just different. Each one has something to learn
    from the other

The negative aspects of the Erasmus programme
  • Foreign students tend to stay together in their
    own groups instead of mixing with local people
    phenomenon of ghetto
  • E.g. French tend to stay with French, Spanish
    with Spanish and so on
  • But all in all Erasmus experience has been

  • As we have shown at SSU, and this is probably
    reflected in institutions across the EU, the
    Erasmus programme is generally seen as something
    very positive by the students who participate.
    Problems tend to relate to having to get used to
    a different system, a lack of finances,
    administration, loneliness and difficulty in
    working in another language.
  • Whether the goal of making participation in the
    Erasmus programme the general rule rather than
    the exception, is achievable, remains to be
    seen. In a press release in May 2008, the
    Commission notes that the rate of growth in
    mobility of students and teachers has slowed
    and that to reach the EU target of 3 million
    students by 2012, an annual increase of about
    9-10 would be needed (European Commission,
    2008 2)
  • You could argue that the Erasmus programme can
    play a role in enhancing peoples perceptions of
    what it means to be a European citizen. Whether
    it will create Active European Citizens is
    another question.

  • European Commission. 2007. ERASMUS Success
    Stories Europe Creates Opportunities.
    Luxembourg Office for the Official Publications
    of the European Communities
  • Ferraro, G.P. 2006. The Cultural Dimension of
    International Business. Fifth Edition. London
    Thomson Learning.
  • Khan- Panni, P., and D., Swallow 2003.
    Communicating across cultures. The key successful
    international business communication. Oxford How
    to books.
  • http//
    renceIP/08/736 (online)
  • accessed 20 June 2008
  • Hostfede Cultural Dimensions http//www.geert-hofs (online)
  • accessed 23 June 2008