Credit mobility, i.e. students moving to another HEI to acquire credits that are recognised in their home institution as a part of a tertiary degree, is an important component of student mobility in Europe. Credit mobility is a specific focus of the different editions of the Erasmus programmes of the European Union that, since its creation in 1987, has supported nearly 5 million students to move to another European country.
ETER provides for the first time data on credit mobility at the institutional level supported by the Erasmus+ programme. It shows a diverse landscape in terms of volume of mobility, but also of its intensity as compared to the size of the institutional student body. In this report, we use 2014 data as ETER data are currently more complete for that year. In terms of absolute values, there were 24 HEIs sending out in 2014 more than 1,000 students; these HEIs are fairly large (at least 25,000 students at levels ISCED 5-7) and are concentrated in Spain (7 HEIs) and in Italy (6 HEIs). This should be compared with country-level data where Germany is the main sender country, followed by Italy, Spain and France; the list of top-sending institutions therefore largely reflect the presence in some countries, like Italy and Spain, of very large HEIs in terms of student enrolments (see Figure 1).
In general, the number of incoming and outgoing students per institution are highly correlated (0.85), showing how the programme is based on reciprocity, but notable differences can be observed: the Universities of Barcelona and Sevilla had a net inflow of 1,000 students each, while three Eastern European universities (Warsaw, Brno and Iasi) having the largest net outflow. Among 18 HEIs receiving in 2014 more than 1,000 Erasmus students, 9 were in Spain, 2 in Italy and 2 in Portugal. Expectedly, these are rather large, but not necessarily the largest HEIs in Europe. This corresponds to country-level data that shows asymmetry in the mobility flows with Spain as the main receiving country and Germany having a large net outflow of mobile students.
The patterns are different in terms of mobility intensity, normalized by the student population. The median HEI in ETER had slightly less than 1 outgoing and about 1.4 incoming mobile students per 100 enrolled students. There are however 43 HEIs sending out more than 1 out of 10 students: these are mostly small (few exceed 1,000 students) and focused on specific domains, particularly in arts and music; the high level of mobility can therefore be justified by the specific nature of the field. Conversely, the 16 HEIs receiving more than 1 Erasmus student per 10 enrolled students are mostly art academies. The main exception is the UK university of Cranfield that offers only postgraduate education.
Size is therefore an important, but not the sole determinant of Erasmus mobility that is also influenced by geography and by the education domain, particularly for the specialized institutions. The availability of fine-grained data in ETER will allow for a deeper understanding of the determinants of such patterns.