Czech students enjoying benefits of Erasmus programme

Foto: Evropská komise

For many young people around the continent, one of the most tangible benefits of being in the European Union is having the opportunity to study in another EU state. For 20 years the main body helping facilitate such international study has been the Erasmus programme. Ahead of a large Erasmus conference in Prague, I found out what it means for Czech students and universities.

Photo: European Commission
Around 500 delegates from 31 states are coming to the Czech Technical University this weekend to celebrate both the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Erasmus Student Network, and the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

Petra Slechtova is from the Czech National Agency for European Educational Programmes. On the eve of the Prague conference, I asked her how many Czechs now take part in the Erasmus programme, eight years after the country joined.

"The latest number for the academic year 2005-2006 is 4,725 Czech students. The number is increasing every year, so this year it's around 5,000 Czech students. They usually go to Germany, Spain, France and Great Britain. And the most popular subject for studies abroad is business and management."

Erasmus helps students integrate and provides some funding, such as for the extra costs that arise from living in a more expensive country. That can be important for Czech students.

One person with a good overview of the significance the programme has for them is Professor Vaclav Havlicek, rector of the Czech Technical University.

Vaclav Havlicek
"This programme is very important for improving the skills of our students. We have in our plans the idea that every student should spend at minimum one semester abroad. Without the support of Erasmus it would not be possible. With its support we are already able to send everybody from PhD studies abroad, and a significant part of engineering students too."

What about traffic in the other direction? Professor Havlicek says that in the early days the number of students coming to the Czech Republic was far lower than the number of Czechs studying elsewhere in Europe. But that has changed.

"In the last two years the exchange has been completely balanced. Every year about 500 students from the Czech Technical University go abroad. And the same number are incoming students. They attend regular lectures in English. These students are usually better than the foreign students that are studying full-time in the Czech Republic."