Irish education has also benefited significantly from EU membership with major advances made in university research structures, support for school building and infrastructure and enhanced exchange programmes with European partners. Within the higher education sphere the ERASMUS programme supports Irish students studying at universities across the EU. ERASMUS is the world’s largest cross-jurisdictional educational exchange scheme in the world, with more than 3 million students having participated since the programme’s inception in 1987. In 2012-2013 the average amount received by Irish students was about €270 per month. The main objective of the programme is to allow students to broaden both their academic and cultural experiences and boost their linguistic capacities, allowing them also to boost their employability and career prospects. More than 4,000 higher education institutions in 33 countries offer an ERASMUS year, providing both staff and students the opportunity to teach and learn across a range of academic disciplines. In 2013 France was the most popular destination for Irish students; 589 out of the 2,762 Irish ERASMUS students chose to study there, followed by Spain (493), the UK (454), and Germany (329). French students comprised the largest group of incoming students to Ireland (1,949), followed by German students (1,810 and Spanish students (967). Ireland attracted 6,277 European students to study in Irish higher education institutions in the same year. Ireland’s research infrastructure has also been transformed as a result of the deepening of cooperation across EU jurisdictions. Irish universities have been very successful in attracting EU grant funding across science, engineering and the humanities and social sciences. The Irish Research Council’s mission is to enable and sustain a vibrant research community in Ireland and it facilitates the integration of Irish researchers with their European counterparts whilst providing funding to researchers from all disciplines at different stages of their careers. Through participation in the EU’s flagship Horizon 2020 framework the Council acts as the representative body for all Irish researchers and ensures that Irish research is strongly represented in European programmes.


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