The Erasmus Student Network is not only present in Rotterdam. In fact, as of March 2021, the network consists of 540 local sections in 42 countries. ESN was founded on October 16, 1989, and legally registered in 1990 for supporting and developing student exchange. The network has an average annual growth rate of 12% since 2005 and is currently the biggest student association in Europe. The vast majority of its active members are volunteers.
ESN is operating on three levels: local, national, and international. Each level of the network contributes in its own way to promote a more mobile and flexible education environment by supporting and developing the student exchange and providing an intercultural experience to local students.
ESN is working in Higher Education (HE):
- offering services to 350,000 students
- 15,000 active members (40,000 with the buddies included)
- mainly on a volunteer basis
- with an average annual growth rate of 12% since 2005
In 1987 a plan to create an extensive mobility scheme for higher education was approved by the European Community (EC). The Erasmus programme was a part of this that was created to incentivize students to go abroad during their studies.
In 1989 the Erasmus Bureau invited 32 former Erasmus Students for an evaluation meeting in Gent, Belgium. This meeting was a starting point for the Erasmus Student Network. The problems that students were facing when going abroad were identified in the evaluation of the Erasmus programme and became the main tasks for the founders of ESN to work on. Behind all this stood the idea of “students helping students“, which is still the most important motto of ESN volunteers.
On 16th of October 1989, the first section using the name Erasmus Student Network was founded in Utrecht (The Netherlands). Following that, ESN sections were founded in various European universities. In October 1990 a meeting for the official founding of ESN International was organized in Copenhagen (Denmark) with 49 participants from almost all member states of the EC. ESN International became a legal association. Desiree Majoor from Utrecht (the Netherlands) was the first president in ESN history. By 1994, not even 5 years later, the Erasmus Student Network already consisted of 60 sections in 14 countries. The network has been growing steadily ever since.