The ERASMUS Programme of the European Union as Promoter of Tolerance Comparing Latvia to France and Switzerland

Master's Thesis, 2009
55 Pages, Grade: A-











Annex I: Historical Outline of the ERASMUS Programme 1957-2009
Annex II: Questionnaire (ENG)
Annex III: Questionnaire (FR)
Annex IV: Tables of Statistical Data of Survey
Annex V: Transcripts of Interviews with Experts of the ERASMUS Programme
Annex VI: Transcripts of Interviews with Experts of Tolerance


The ERASMUS Programme of the EU as Promoter of Tolerance Comparing Latvia to France and Switzerland Master thesis as one of the first such researches in Europe draws attention to the ERASMUS Programme – a successful example of European integration and a symbol of construction of European identity. Author has created definition of tolerance and through analysis of interviews with experts of the ERASMUS Programme and of tolerance has indicated that one of the Programme’s objectives is the promotion of tolerance. Through analysis of questionnaires filled by respondents of University of Latvia, Science Po and ETH author has proved that the Programme promotes tolerance on the basis of encouraging multicultural experience, intercultural education, diminishing social distance, breaking stereotypes, furthering confidence and openness.


Das ERASMUS-Programm von EU wie die Veranstalter der Toleranz Lettland Vergleich zu Frankreich und der Schweiz Diplomarbeit als eine der ersten Studie, die sich die Aufmerksamkeit auf ERASMUS-Programm zieht - ein erfolgreich Beispiel für die europäische Integration und das Symbol der Konstruktion einer europäischen Identität. Autor, durch Analyse des Interviews des Experten der ERASMUS- Programm und Toleranz, betont, dass eines der Ziele des Programms die Förderung der Toleranz ist. Bei der Analyse der Fragebögen der Befragten der Universität Lettlands, Science Po und ETH hat Autor geprüft, dass Programm ein Projektträger der Toleranz auf der Grundlage der Förderung der multikulturellen Erfahrungen und interkulturelle Bildung, Verringerung der sozialen Distanz, die Beseitigung von Stereotypen, die Förderung des Vertrauens und der Offenheit.


Le programme ERASMUS de UE en tant que promoteur de la tolérance, la comparaison de Lettonie, en France et en Suisse L'attention de Master papier wie une de l’premiere recherché dans l’Europe est de programme ERASMUS – l’exemple de l'intégration européenne et la symbole de la construction de l'identité européenne. L'auteur sur l'analyse des experts du programme ERASMUS et de la tolérance a prouvé que l'un des objectifs du programme est la promotion de la tolérance. L'analyse des questionnaires des répondants de l'Université de Lettonie, de Science Po et ETH a prouvé que programme est le promoteur de la tolérance sur la base de l'expérience multiculturelle et encourager l'éducation interculturelle, de diminuer la distance sociale, brisant les stéréotypes, favorisant la confiance et d'ouverture.


Karina Oborune

Bachelor’s degree in Political Science of University of Latvia. Praised for the excellent Bachelor thesis. In 2006 participated in academic conference in Rome, Italy. In 2007 studied as ERASMUS at Sciences Po, France and participated in United Nations simulation in New York, USA. Three academic-scientific publications in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Granted by Government Scholarship (2005-2008), Bilmanis Scholarship (2006) and Gebert Rüf Scholarship (2008-2009). In 2009 will continue studies in Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Research interests: ERASMUS Programme, tolerance.


Karina Oborune

Bachelor-Abschluss in Politikwissenschaft an der Universität Lettlands. Lob für die Bachelor- Arbeit wurde mit ausgezeichnete Note geschrieben. In 2006 beteiligte sich Autor an der wissenschaftliche Konferenz in Rom, Italien. Im Jahre 2007 studierte Autor als Erasmus an Sciences Po, Frankreich und beteiligte sich an der Simulation der Vereinten Nationen in New York, USA. Drei akademischen wissenschaftlichen Publikationen in 2005, 2008 und 2009. Dem Autor wurde Stipendien von der Regierung (2005-2008), Bilmanis Stipendium (2006) und der Gebert-Rüf-Stipendium (2008-2009) gewährt. Im Jahre 2009 wird Autor an der Zentraleuropäische Universität (Budapest, Ungarn) weiterstudieren. Forschungsschwerpunkt ist ERASMUS-Programm der Toleranz.


Karina Oborune

Baccalauréat en sciences politiques de l'Université de Lettonie. Éloge de l'excellente thèse de baccalauréat. En 2006, a participé à la conférence académique, à Rome, Italie. En 2007, étudié wie Erasmus à Science Po de Lille, en France et a participé à la simulation des Nations Unies à New York, Etats-Unis. Trois publications académiques et scientifiques, en 2005, 2008 et 2009. Accordée par le gouvernement de bourses d'études (2005-2008), Bilmanis (2006) et Gebert Rüf (2008-2009). En 2009, continuera les études dans l'Université d'Europe Centrale à Budapest, Hongrie. Intérêts de recherche: programme ERASMUS, de la tolérance.


“Bringing students to Europe, bringing Europe to students…”

Motto of the ERASMUS Programme

In our world today, the political agenda emphasizes tolerance as a value that takes a significant place in the context of European integration and creation of European identity. The enlargement of the European Union (hereinafter “EU”) in years of 2004 and 2007 has widened multicultural features of the EU because of joining new languages, religions, ethnical groups and cultures. Therefore, as a result, differentiation of European cultures has become a value (European Parliament, 2008) and, therefore, the importance of intercultural dialogue has increased (Year of Intercultural Dialogue, 2008).

Erasmus of Rotterdam became a pioneer of mobility grants by bequeathing his fortune to the University of Basel. However, as many people believe, the name of the ERASMUS exchange Programme of students of the European Union (hereinafter “ERASMUS Programme”) has not been named after this famous scholar . ERASMUS is rather an acronym for “European Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students”1 (Ilchman et al., 2004: 156).

Today, the ERASMUS Programme is described as one of the symbols of construction of European identity and one of the most successful examples of promoting European integration. Furthermore, the motto of ERASMUS Programme exemplifies it: “bringing students to Europe, bringing Europe to all students” (Nelson & Neack, 2002: 207). The programme is also contributing to “an ever-closer Union among the peoples of Europe” and highlights the motto of EU: “unity in diversity”. In the author’s mind, the ERASMUS Programme also plays significant role in the context of promoting tolerance: enriching the multicultural experience and developing intercultural abilities. But in the author’s opinion this field is not researched adequately; it could be further argued that such research is unique not only in Switzerland but also in Europe2.

The problem issue of this Master thesis is, whether the ERASMUS Programme has promoted tolerance. The following hypothesis has been drawn - the ERASMUS Programme promotes tolerance on the basis of multicultural experience, intercultural education, decreasing social distance, breaking stereotypes, and in the promotion of trust and openness. To prove this hypothesis the following tasks has been drafted: first, to define and describe concepts of “tolerance”, “intercultural education”, “social distance”, “stereotype” and “prejudice”, second, to analyse aims and the role of the ERASMUS Programme (pre- and post-foundation phases), third, to draw criteria and indicators of tolerance, as well as to establish the factors and units of analysis; forth, to hold a survey for the students who have participated in the ERASMUS Programme in Latvia (University of Latvia), France (Science Po Lille or officially Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille) and Switzerland (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich); fifth, to carry out interviews with experts of the ERASMUS Programme and experts of tolerance.

In the theoretical (historical) part the author wanted to ascertain, whether the European Community a priori was the one which helped the formation of the ERASMUS Programme, or if the ERASMUS Programme determined further European integration. This part examines the idea and objectives of the ERASMUS Programme during the period from 1957 till 1987 (initiation and formation phase) and after 1987 (implementation and expansion phase). The theoretical (conceptual) part analyses theoretical insights in the concept of tolerance, and criteria and indicators of tolerance. In this part the author has created her own definition of tolerance: tolerance is a willingness and ability to respect otherness, and is characterized by reverence, cooperation and lack of stereotypes and prejudices, as well as definitions of “stereotype” and “prejudice”. The author has also analysed such concepts as intercultural education and social distance. Descriptive, comparative, analytical and statistical methods were used in theoretical parts.

The empirical part was devoted to the analysis of chosen empirical material - survey (quantitative research method) and structured and semi-structured interviews (qualitative research method). The survey was aimed to clarify the impact of the ERASMUS Programme on the promotion of tolerance in Latvia (a new Member State – it participates in the ERASMUS Programme since 1999 (Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia, 2007), France (an old Member State – it participates since 1987) and Switzerland (a non-EU Member State – it participates since 1992 (ERASMUS Student Charter, 2003). Overall, 321 student were surveyed. Survey was designed to meet two tasks: first, to examine the relationship among social distance, inter-trust and stereotypes, and second, to determine whether tolerance was promoted during the exchange. Questionnaires were compiled using the following three criteria: social distance (the desire to contact with people of other nationalities), mutual trust (contacts and ties of friendship) and stereotypes (characteristics). Furthermore, based on the criteria there were established five units of analysis: multicultural experience, social distance, confidence, stereotyping (creating/breaking), and dogmatism.

The aim of the semi-structured and structured interviews was to explore the role of the ERASMUS Programme as a promoter of tolerance and analyse the concept of tolerance. The author interviewed four experts of the ERASMUS Programme - the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth Ján Figel, the Head of ERASMUS Programme in Switzerland Urs Nufer, the Head of ERASMUS Programme in Latvia Dzintra Prikule and the Head of ERASMUS Student Network in Latvia Madara Apsalone. Also three experts were interviewed on the subject of tolerance – the Head of UL Social and Political Research Institute, the former Special Assignments Minister for Society Integration Affairs Dr. Nils Muiznieks, the Head of the Soros Foundation Latvia Human rights and social integration Programme Dr. Liesma Ose and co-author of the research Ethnic Tolerance and Integration of the Latvian Society ” Liga Krastina.

The sources and literature 3 of this Master thesis can be conditionally divided into two parts. First, studies of scholars Ose, Heyd and Reardon, which were used in defining the concept, criteria and indicators of tolerance, as well as Byram, Makkonen, Allport, Pettigrew and other working papers in analysis of concepts of intercultural education, social distance, stereotypes and prejudice. Second, sources about the ERASMUS Programme, such as studies of Corradi, Corbett and Coleman were referred to. Sixty sources and literature were used in the following languages: English, French, Latvian, and Russian.4


In this part author has analysed the ERASMUS Programme by examining the idea and objectives of the ERASMUS Programme during the period from 1957 till 1987 (initiation and formation phase) and after 1987 (implementation and expansion phase). Author has created a historical outline demonstrating the main years of development of the exchange programme (see 1stAnnex “Historical Outline of ERASMUS Programme 1957-2009”). The works of Sofia Corradi, one of founders of the ERASMUS Programme and Anna Corbett were taken into account in following two parts.



In the Treaty of Rome the concept of education has not been mentioned (Treaty Establishing EEC: 1957). Only partial footnote can be found in Articles 118 and 128 where professional training is considered and in Article 57 where the mutual recognition of academic qualifications appears.


Corbett points out that in 1961 there was as an attempt to create European University, which has not been realized. However, an attempt to create Institute of European University came to be in 1972 European University Institute in Florence. (Corbett, 2006: 9)

Corradi emphasizes that a very important turning point was the year of 1969 when there was held European Conference of Rectors in Geneva. This year can be called a starting point of the ERASMUS Programme, when a fundamental term “university autonomy” (the realization of cooperation agreements can be realized not by states, but by universities) was introduced. This initiative indicated bottom-up approach. The term “equivalence” that was used at the intergovernmental level was replaced by term “recognition” (Corradi, 2006: 5-6). The change of concepts was innovatively radical and influenced the further development of Community in the field of education. Also a significant turning point was the article that provided not only exchange of students, but also recognition of study period at the home university that had impact on 1970s when it became possible to implement exchange programs between the universities of Italy and Germany and between Italy and France. (Corbett, 2006)


Turning points were reports of Henry Jeanne ““For a European Policy of Education”, which pointed out European dimension and report of Ralph Dahrendorf “Education in the European Community”, which encouraged debates about mobility on community level, highlighted the study of EU and Europe, and learning of foreign languages. Additionaly, Corradi put accent on year of 1974 when there was an idea about creating cooperation between Western and Eastern European countries, but it was not realized. In 1975 Jean-Claude Masclet submitted report on “Intra-European Mobility of Students”. In 1976 the ERASMUS pilot project “Joint Study Programmes” (scholarship for students) was founded. (Corradi, 2006: 15-20)


In 1980s there were held many intergovernmental negotiations, especially between Germany and Italy, but only in 1983 and 1984 the support came from Council of Ministers and the European Parliament (Corradi, 2006: 20, 22, 25-26). In 1984 the European Parliament in “Resolution on Higher Education and on the Development of Cooperation Between Institutions of Higher Education” emphasized exchange and promotion of students’ mobility.

In 1986 the European Community approved general plan of “ERASMUS” because of its vital importance for realization of “citizen’s Europe” (Corradi, 2006: 25-26). In 1986/1987 students association AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe), the main key of driving the idea of ERASMUS, persuaded the president of France François Mitterrand to support the ERASMUS programme. On 14th May of year 1987 Council of Ministers ratified the ERASMUS program and it entered into force (Carayol, 2007: 1). The aim of the approved ERASMUS Programme in 1987 was to encourage and support the mobility of higher education students in Europe. Since 1987 the ERASMUS Programme has become one of most successful examples of European construction (Corbett, 2006: 9).

As the following four decades have shown, there could be distinguished four periods of creation of the ERASMUS Programme: the first period was the radical introduction of terms (university autonomy”, “recognition” that are used also nowadays), the second period were three main reports (Jeanne, Dahrendorf, Masclet) and pilot project (scholarship for students), the third period was a step by step realization using intergovernmental power in European Community, and the fourth period was foundation of the ERASMUS Programme in 1987. The first and second period is initiation phase and third and fourth period is formation phase.



James Coleman has concluded that the ERASMUS Programme has promoted European integration by supporting mobility among the European citizens. He points out that in 1988/89 the exchanges largely took place among Germany, France and Great Britain (62% of students), but in 1997/98 only 49% of their students have participated in mobility (Coleman: 1998: 3). Coleman indicates that research conducted by Opper, Teichler and Carlson in 1990 shows that the period of the ERASMUS Programme has not contributed to level of empathy for other cultures in students (1998: 14-15). Coleman also has concluded that stereotypes, which are rooted in society, and culture in which they live are acquired in the primary and secondary school, and are difficult to get rid of even during the learning process (the studies were conducted by Byram, Cain, Chambers (Byram et al. in Coleman, 1998: 28)). Morgan believes that these stereotypes come from older generation and are not always based on their experience living in foreign countries (Morgan in Coleman, 1998: 28).

Nevertheless, Corradi has emphasized that the main contribution for students was nor the improvement of foreign languages, neither improvement of academic knowledge, but the gain of experience while living in other culture, and that cause them to evaluate the values obtained during childhood (not obligatory positive). (Corradi, 2006: 30) She also has come to the conclusion that students during exchange are both in teaching and the pastor’s role. Student starts to understand that the person who belongs to another culture is not obligatory a non-friend, moreover, student has reserved a priceless opportunity to become a minority, while avoiding psychological effects caused by the minority status (Corradi, 2006: 29-30).

However, Willis and Coleman concluded that living abroad has a positive impact on student attitudes (Coleman, 1998: 28). British coming back from studying in France, describes the French students not as hard working, serious and lofty (the most common stereotypes about the French), but as emotional, patient and tolerant individuals. Also results of research done by Engberg, Hurtado and Meader show that young people in contact with peers of different ethnicities promote openness and the ability to accept people with different beliefs (Engberg et al, 2003). Therefore one can conclude that the ERASMUS generation is more open-minded. (Le Monde, 2009) The ERASMUS Programme has been promoting “cooperation and unity, and breaking down the barriers resulting from linguistic differences, and entrenched stereotyping” (Peck, 1996: 69).


In 2007 the ERASMUS Programme celebrated twenty years and it has proven itself as one of the most successful programs in promoting European integration. The European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth Ján Figel has emphasized that “80 percent of ERASMUS students are the first in their families that have studied abroad” (Figel, 2006: 1). This was and is the main factor of internationalisation and Europeanization of higher education. However, the term European dimension nowadays is used more than Europeanization (Sherman et al., 2000: 251). European Commissioner also stressed that since 1987 one and a half million of students has benefited from the ERASMUS Programme and the number of three million should be reached before year 2012. Author would like to point out that the ERASMUS Programme has achieved not only the main objective to contribute to mobility at higher education institutions in Europe. As Figel recognizes, the ERASMUS Programme has developed outside of scheme of education programs (2006: 4). The ERASMUS Programme has become: 1) political tool of soft power of EU; 2) social and cultural phenomena. First, it has become political tool of soft power of the EU, because students who identify themselves as European apparently will support European project (Sauzet, 2008: 81, 83). Figel also added that the ERASMUS Programme ultimately benefits all Europeans (New Europe: 2008) and has given students opportunity to experience European diversity and feel European “that may have impact on the process of European integration” (Byram & Anwei, 2006: 121). Second, it has become a social and cultural phenomena because of improving communication and cooperation skills, and understanding other cultures (Figel, 2006: 1, 4).

On the other hand, annually only 1 per cent of European students participate in exchange, (EU Observer, 2006). Is this “Community” policy when 99 per cent do not participate? The European Commission asked Member States to increase grant for giving opportunities to more students, especially to less privileged (EUROPA, 2006), because only students with a good financial background can afford to become ERASMUS student (The New York Times, 2009: 1). Moreover, information about opportunities of mobility for the non-mobile is the very essential (Byram & Anwei, 2006: 116). Finally, as was mentioned above, increase of empathy level and breaking of stereotypes is not always achieved. Therefore, author has come to conclusion that the ERASMUS Programme should not be idealized. It also has its shortcomings that probably create a barrier for promoting tolerance and Europeanization.


1 The success of the ERASMUS Programme led to the custom of naming various other Community programmes after prestigious figures from European cultures like Socrates, Leonardo or Comenius.

2 Author has written Bachelor thesis where have been researched case of Latvia and France. In Master thesis author has expanded her field of interest to Switzerland. During her studies in Central European University (2009/2010) there will be also researched case of Hungary, therefore four different countries will be covered relating to the EU Member States: old Western European (France), new Eastern European (Latvia), non-EU (Switzerland) and Central European state (Hungary). In future perspective author would like to hold research on all states participating in the ERASMUS Programme.

3 There were used the so-called Harvard reference system. Author or editor, year, used page or pages are put in the brackets, for example, (Reardon, 2001:32) or when authors mentioned in the text then (2001: 5, 19-21, 32, 54). When referring to the entire source, not a particular page, the page is not required, for example, (Ose, 2006). If there are two authors or editors, the reference is (Byram & Anwei, 2006: 121), but if there are more than two, then (Zepa et al, 2004: 78). When reference is made to an institution’s document, the name and the year of issue are indicated, for example, (UNESCO, 1995). If an author or an authority has several works in one year, then letters - a, b, c are put, for example, (Heyd in Scanlon, 2003a: 187).

4 Survey and interviews were held in Latvian, French, and English. Statistical data about number of outgoing students was gathered in Latvian, French and German.

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The ERASMUS Programme of the European Union as Promoter of Tolerance Comparing Latvia to France and Switzerland
University of Basel  (Europainstitute)
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Erasmus programme, EU, tolerance, stereotypes, prejudices
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Karina Oborune (Author), 2009, The ERASMUS Programme of the European Union as Promoter of Tolerance Comparing Latvia to France and Switzerland, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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