Thousands of students from Greece in Erasmus program

Erasmus is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Greek students are enthusiastic about their studies abroad but Greek universities and technical colleges do not attract as many foreign students. During the 2005-06 academic year, 2,714 Greek students traveled abroad to study at a European university while 1,903 foreign students attended a Greek university or technical college, a clear indication that Greek universities have not yet become internationalized at a time when inter-university cooperation is highly important. During the 20 years that Erasmus has been in operation, about 1.5 million students have taken part in the scheme. In the 2005-06 academic year, 154,553 students traveled to universities in 31 countries, up by 7 percent from the previous year (144,037). Most students went to Spanish universities, which were more popular than universities in more densely populated countries such as Britain, France and Germany. This is hardly surprising as students consider having a good time more important than their actual studies. The number of students traveling abroad is rising every year and this is evident in Greece as well. Erasmus provides students with the opportunity to spend a part of their studies in recognized higher educational institutes, to experience life abroad, get to know different cultures, learn foreign languages and generate new prospects after their studies. The scheme has also been extended to university professors who can go and teach at another European institute. In Greece, according to data from the State Scholarship Foundation (IKY), which coordinates the scheme in Greece, 2,714 students left Greece last year. Every year the number is on the rise as the figure for 2004-05 was 2,487, an increase of 9 percent. The number of students participating in the Erasmus scheme in 2003-04 was 2,385. Erasmus coordinator at IKY Maria Ioannidou said the average time spent at a university in one of the 31 countries is five months. Most of the students that take part in Erasmus are enrolled in the larger Greek universities. In 2005-06, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – the largest institute in Greece – sent 580 students to another European university and 525 students took part from Athens University, 142 from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and 166 from the Athens University of Economics and Business. The popularity of Erasmus is also high in technical colleges (TEI) in the capital. From the Athens TEI 156 students took part in 2005-06 and from the Piraeus TEI 56 students. French (491 students) and Spanish universities (411 students) are the favorite destination of Greek students. There is less interest on the part of foreign students in attending a Greek higher educational institute. This is mainly attributed to the language factor as fewer lectures are given in English (the language preferred by Europeans) but also to the number of demonstrations at Greek universities and TEI that give an impression of disorganization to our fellow Europeans. During the academic year 2005-06, 1,903 European students attended a Greek higher educational establishment and 1,658 students in 2004-05, up by 15 percent. This is a satisfactory increase but countries with the same population have overtaken Greece in this respect. In 2005-06, 7,062 students went to a Swedish university via Erasmus and 5,103 students chose a Belgian university. Portugal attracted 4,542 Erasmus students and Austria 3,744 students. Erasmus also gives university lecturers the opportunity to work in another European institute. In 2005-06, 479 Greek lecturers and professors went to teach abroad, up from 417 in 2004-05 and 337 in 2003-04. Most were from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki (116 in 2005-06) followed by the University of Crete with 44 participants and the Athens and Thessaloniki TEI which each had 37 participants. From the NTUA, 31 took part, from the University of Thessaly 27 took part and 24 from Athens University. The favorite destination of Greek professors and lecturers is France, chosen by 66 last year, followed by Germany (62), the United Kingdom (45) and Spain (34). Thirty university lecturers or professors chose to teach in institutes in Romania and 28 in Italy. University professors though spend much less time abroad, on average just one week.