Erasmus Mundus

Erasmus Mundus

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Erasmus Mundus


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

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Erasmus Mundus (2004-08)

The aim of the Erasmus Mundus programme is to enhance the quality of higher education in Europe by promoting cooperation with third countries and to make higher education in Europe more attractive.

Document or Iniciative

Decision No 2317/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 December 2003 establishing a programme for the enhancement of quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through cooperation with third countries (Erasmus Mundus) (2004 to 2008).


The Erasmus Mundus programme, which runs from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2008, offers a manifestly “European” content in the field of higher education. First and foremost, it aims to improve the quality and attractiveness of higher education in Europe and to promote international mobility for students and scholars. Erasmus Mundus is a follow-up from the Commission communications on reinforcing cooperation with third countries and on the role of universities in the Europe of knowledge.


Erasmus Mundus aims to enhance the quality of European higher education by fostering cooperation with third countries in order to improve the development of human resources and promote dialogue and understanding between peoples and cultures. More specifically, the programme seeks to:

  • promote quality in higher education with a distinctly European added value;
  • encourage and enable highly qualified graduates and scholars from all over the world to obtain qualifications and/or acquire experience in the European Union (EU);
  • develop better-structured cooperation between EU and third-country institutions and increase outgoing mobility from the EU;
  • make European higher education more accessible and enhance its visibility throughout the world.

In pursuing the programme’s objectives, the Commission must adhere to the Community’s general policy on equal opportunities for men and women. It also ensures that no group of citizens or non-EU nationals is excluded or disadvantaged.


The Erasmus Mundus programme is being implemented through five actions.

Erasmus Mundus masters courses are advanced-level European diploma courses that are selected by the Commission on the basis of the quality of the training offered. They are characterised by:

  • cooperation between at least three higher education institutions in three different Member States;
  • a study programme including a period of study in at least two of the three institutions;
  • built-in mechanisms for the recognition of periods of study at partner institutions;
  • the awarding of joint, double or multiple degrees by the participating institutions that are recognised or approved by Member States;
  • a minimum number of reserved places for non-EU students;
  • transparent admission conditions that also ensure fairness and equality between men and women;
  • clear rules for awarding grants to students and scholars;
  • adequate facilities for non-EU students (information, accommodation, etc.);
  • the use of at least two European languages that are national languages of the Member States where the participating institutions are situated.

Erasmus Mundus masters courses are selected for a five-year period, with an annual renewal procedure.

Scholarships provide financial support for non-EU graduate students and scholars attending Erasmus Mundus masters courses. However, students and scholars must meet certain conditions in order to qualify for a scholarship.

Students must be nationals of a third country and hold a first higher education degree. They may not reside in a Member State or in the participating country, and they may not have carried out their main activity in a Member State or participating country for more than 12 months out of the last five years. They must also have been accepted to register or be registered for an Erasmus Mundus masters course.

Scholars must be nationals of a third country and may not reside in a Member State or participating country. They may not have carried out their main activity in a Member State or participating country for more than a total of 12 months out of the last five years. They must also offer outstanding academic and/or professional experience.

Partnerships with non-EU higher education institutions (maximum duration of three years) involve an Erasmus Mundus masters course and a higher education institution in at least one non-EU country, in order to create a framework for mobility towards the third country. Recognition of study periods at the host (non-EU) institution must be guaranteed.

Students and scholars from Member States and third-country nationals who have been legally resident in the EU for at least three years before the start of the mobility programme (for purposes other than study) are eligible for mobility grants.

Partnership projects may also include:

  • teaching assignments at a partner institution with a view to developing the project curriculum;
  • exchanges of teachers, trainers, administrators and other relevant specialists;
  • development and dissemination of new methods for use in higher education, including information and communication technologies, e-learning, and open and distance learning;
  • developing cooperation schemes with third-country higher education institutions with a view to offering courses there.

Erasmus Mundus supports activities and measures to make higher education in Europe more attractive as a venue for study, for example by enhancing the profile and visibility of, and accessibility to, European education. The measures may also aim at achieving the objectives of the Erasmus Mundus programme, such as the international dimension of quality assurance, mobility, credit recognition, recognition of European qualifications abroad and mutual recognition of qualifications with third countries. They may also consist of establishing links between higher education and research.

Activities must take place within networks involving at least three public or private organisations (in three different Member States) that are active in higher education at national or international level. Networks may also involve third-country organisations. These activities (such as seminars, conferences, workshops, ICT tools or publications) may take place in Member States or third countries.

Technical support measures during the implementation of the programme may involve experts, executive or other competent agencies in Member States on the Commission’s initiative, or any other form of technical assistance.


Erasmus Mundus is aimed in particular at:

  • higher education institutions;
  • students holding a first degree from a higher education institution;
  • scholars or researchers;
  • staff directly involved in higher education;
  • other public or private bodies active in the field of higher education.

Participating countries

The programme is open to the EU Member States, the European Free Trade Association countries that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA-EFTA) and candidate countries for accession to the EU.

Implementation of the programme

The Commission is responsible for the practical implementation of the programme. A selection board, composed of eminent personalities from the academic world who are representative of the diversity of higher education in the EU, selects the Erasmus Mundus masters courses and partnerships of higher education institutions. Erasmus Mundus masters courses are allocated a specific number of grants. The institutions offering Erasmus Mundus masters courses are responsible for selecting students from third countries, while the Commission selects promotional activities.

Selection procedures include a clearing mechanism at European level in order to prevent serious imbalances across fields of study, students’ and scholars’ nationalities and Member States of destination.

In cooperation with Member States, the Commission ensures overall consistency and complementarity with other relevant Community policies, instruments and actions, in particular with the framework research programmes and external cooperation programmes in the field of higher education.

Member States must ensure the efficient management of the programme at national level (including the designation of appropriate structures to cooperate closely with the Commission), involving all parties concerned. They must endeavour to remove legal and administrative barriers.


The financial framework for the 2004-08 period was initially set at EUR 230 million, but was boosted by allocations from the ‘external aid’ budget and now stands at EUR 296.1 million. The annual appropriations are approved by the budgetary authority within the limits of the financial perspectives.

Monitoring and evaluation

The Commission regularly monitors the programme in cooperation with Member States. It also constantly evaluates the programme’s overall impact and the complementarity between the programme and other relevant Community policies, instruments and actions.

The Commission must submit the following to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions:

  • a report on the financial repercussions of an accession of a new Member State on the programme and proposals to counteract them;
  • an interim evaluation report by 30 June 2007 on the results achieved and on the qualitative aspects of programme implementation;
  • a communication on the continuation of the programme by 31 December 2007;
  • an ex-post evaluation report by 31 December 2009.


The Erasmus Mundus programme responds to the challenges of the Bologna process initiated in 1999 and the Lisbon strategy launched in 2000, which respectively ensure that the European higher education system acquires a worldwide degree of attractiveness appropriate to Europe’s cultural and scientific traditions and adapt European education and training systems to the needs of the knowledge society.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2317/2003/EC

20.1.2004 – 31.12.2008

OJ L 345 of 31.12.2003

Related Acts

Decision No 1298/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 establishing the Erasmus Mundus 2009-2013 action programme for the enhancement of quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through cooperation with third countries [Official Journal L 340 of 19.12.2008].
The Erasmus Mundus 2009-13 action programme is based on its predecessor for the period 2004-08. This new programme is consistent with the objectives of excellence of the previous one, but introduces certain adaptations to the scope. Among others, the programme is now extended to the doctoral level, it more effectively integrates third country higher education institutions and their needs and provides more funding to European participants. Furthermore, instead of the previous five actions, the programme is now implemented through joint programmes, partnerships and measures promoting European higher education.


Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 July 2007 – Report on the Interim Evaluation of the Erasmus Mundus Programme 2004-2008 [COM(2007) 375 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
During the period of 2004-06, the Erasmus Mundus programme led to the creation of 80 Erasmus Mundus masters courses, 2325 scholarships for non-EU students, 19 partnerships and 23 projects designed to make European higher education more attractive. The Commission presents its conclusions and recommendations on the implementation of the programme based on the external evaluation undertaken during the period 2004-06. The programme’s added value, relevance, utility, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability have been assessed. It responds to the objectives of the Bologna process and the Lisbon strategy in terms of mobility, cooperation, excellence and intercultural understanding. It thus allows European higher education to compete at world level. The programme has also led to better-structured cooperation. Furthermore, it has encouraged certain Member States to establish a legal framework for the accreditation of joint, double or multiple degrees in connection with partnerships. However, additional funding from the ‘external aid’ budget proved necessary in order to contend with the increase in demand for masters courses and scholarships. Non-EU students also benefited more from the programme than EU students.
With a view to preparing the next programme, recommendations have been drafted in order to improve, strengthen and extend the programme. These recommendations relate to the design of the programme, including the extension of scholarships to EU students, extension of the programme to doctorates, encouraging cooperation and partnerships with third-country higher education establishments, and so on. Recommendations on programme management refer in particular to scholarships, the reinforced role of national information sources, the promotion, dissemination and follow-up of projects, as well as the preparation of guidelines on good practice in order to ensure the quality of masters courses. Concerning programme funding, Erasmus Mundus scholarships and tuition fees for masters courses will be maintained at a level that is competitive internationally. The Commission plans to increase the financing allocated to universities that are members of an Erasmus Mundus Master Consortium in order to reflect the true cost of programmes.

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