EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Socrates - Phase I

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Socrates - Phase I


To contribute to the development of quality education and training and of an open European area for education.


Council Decision 95/819/EC of 14 March 1995 establishing the Community action programme "Socrates".

Amended by European Parliament and Council Decision 98/576/EC of 23 February 1998.


Duration of programme: from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1999.

Features: The education programme comprises three areas of Community action, namely higher education, school education and adult education as well as horizontal activities in the areas of language learning, open and distance education and learning, and exchanges of information and experience.

The programme aims to enhance quality and develop the European dimension in studies at all levels and to promote knowledge of the languages of the Community so that its citizens may take advantage of opportunities arising from the completion of the European Union, while at the same time reinforcing solidarity between the peoples of the Community.

It aims a) to increase mobility for students in higher education and b) to promote broad and intensive cooperation between institutions at all levels of education in every Member State, and to realize their intellectual potential through the mobility of teaching staff.

It also aims to encourage the academic recognition of diplomas and periods of study, in particular through the introduction of academic credits and modules aimed at facilitating such recognition at Community level.

The programme makes provision for the use of communication and information technologies as an education tool and subject, including use of multimedia information facilities and telematics at all levels of education.

It supports the intellectual mobility of knowhow and experience, in particular through the development of open and distance education and learning at all levels of education.

It fosters exchanges of information and experience in order to ensure that the diversity of Member States' educational systems serves as a source of enrichment.

The Commission will be assisted by a mixed management and advisory committee composed of two representatives from each Member State and chaired by the Commission representative.

Chapter I of the Annex on "Higher Education - ERASMUS" groups together the activities undertaken under the former ERASMUS Programme and Action 2 of the former Lingua Programme.

It sets out two actions aimed at:

  • promoting the European dimension in higher education institutions;
  • funding student mobility grants.

Chapter II on "School Education - Comenius" sets out three actions intended to encourage:

  • cooperation between nursery, primary and secondary educational establishments;
  • schooling of the children of migrant workers, gypsies, travellers and persons in itinerant occupations, and intercultural education;
  • updating of skills of educational staff.

Chapter III on "Horizontal Measures" sets out activities intended to promote:

  • language skills in the Community;
  • information and communication technologies and open and distance education and learning;
  • information and exchanges of experiences as well as adult education and other complementary measures.

The Commission will ensure implementation of the Socrates programme in accordance with the arrangements set out in the Annex.

The programme provides for close cooperation with the Member States. In operational terms, this means that some of its activities will be decentralised and will be managed by the national agencies designated by the Member States.

The Commission will strive to ensure overall consistency between this programme and the action programme for the implementation of a Community policy on vocational training (Leonardo da Vinci).

The programme will be continuously monitored on a partnership basis involving the Commission and the Member States.

The Commission will submit to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - before 30 September 1998 - an interim report on the launch phase and - before 30 September 2000 - a final report on the implementation of the programme.

Information on the second phase of the Socrates programme - Socrates II

4) deadline for implementation of the legislation in the member states

5) date of entry into force (if different from the above)

6) references

Official Journal L 87, 20.04.1995Official Journal L 77, 14.03.1998

7) follow-up work

On 14 March 1997, the Commission adopted a report on the results of the Community action programme on education (Socrates) in 1995 and 1996 [COM (97) 99 final - not published in the Official Journal].

The programme was received enthusiastically by the entire educational community in the 15 Member States and the three countries of the EEA. The programme has already been responsible for considerable progress in meeting the aims set in the Decision establishing Socrates. There has been a significant increase in European cooperation, especially in the fields of school education, adult education and in open and distance learning, where there was little or no organised cooperation at transnational level before.

The aid granted in 1995 and 1996 enabled:

  • 316 000 students in higher education to pursue a recognised period of study in one of the participating countries;
  • 26 000 teachers and assistants to carry out teaching assignments abroad;
  • some 80 000 young people to participate in joint projects or language exchanges;
  • 16 000 persons to take part in continuing training courses for language teachers;
  • 2 673 inter-university cooperation programmes to be set up, involving 1 800 higher education establishments;
  • 28 major thematic networks in the higher education sector to be set up, each one with over 70 participating establishments;
  • 1 620 partnership agreements to be concluded between 5 000 schools;
  • 3 500 joint language teaching projects to be implemented;
  • 600 transnational projects, involving 2 700 establishments, to be implemented with a view to improving cooperation in the fields of open and distance learning, adult education, intercultural education, language teaching and initial and continuing training for teachers.

This "European dimension in education" which Socrates is helping to establish is also reflected in the increased priority institutions are according European cooperation in their development projects.

As provided for in the Decision establishing the programme, 1997 may see Socrates being extended to the ten associated countries of central and eastern Europe and to Cyprus. This extension will have major implications, mainly in terms of the budget, particularly as the majority of the activities are already oversubscribed.

Romania and Hungary have been participating in the SOCRATES programme since 1997.

Estonia and Lithuania have been participating in the SOCRATES programme since 1998.

Bulgaria has been participating in the SOCRATES programme since 1999.

8) commission implementing measures

On 12 February 1999, the Commission adopted a report on the initial implementation phase of the SOCRATES programme 1995 - 1997 [COM(99) 60 final - not published in the Official Journal]

This report, based on the various evaluation reports drawn up when the programme was implemented, presents the principal results of the SOCRATES programme up to 1997.

Between 1995 and 1997 Socrates was implemented in the 15 Member States of the Union, and in those signatory to the agreement on the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

Since 1997 and 1998 it has also been applicable to the nationals and institutions of Cyprus and certain central and eastern European countries (Romania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) subject to the special conditions established under the association agreements signed with these countries. It is envisaged that Bulgaria and Slovenia will also participate in the programme from 1999.

The Commission feels that the programme has made great strides in, on the one hand, developing quality education and training and, on the other, establishing an open European area for collaboration in education.

The initial budget (ECU 850 million) quickly proved insufficient to attain the short to medium term objectives of the programme despite an additional allocation of ECU 70 million. This situation led to a progressive reduction in the grants awarded to students, which particularly favoured students with sufficient means to meet the cost of a stay in another country. The Commission believes that this factor should be taken into consideration when determining the budget for the second phase of the programme. It also identified a need for greater flexibility in the budgetary machinery and for a reconsideration of the distribution of the programme budget.

With regard to the implementation of the programme, the report criticised the awkwardness and lack of transparency of the procedures for applying for actions under the programme. In the run-up to the adoption of the second phase of the SOCRATES programme, it is vitally important to make the programme more accessible to the public and closer to their needs.

Three structures worked with the Commission on the administration and management of the implementation of the programme:

  • the SOCRATES Committee: contributed to the effectiveness of programme implementation;
  • the national agencies: responsible for management and monitoring of decentralised actions, but difficulties did arise (multiple agencies in a single Member State, lack of coordination between them, lack of resources in some agencies)
  • the Socrates and Youth Technical Assistance Office (TAO): management was satisfactory, however an external evaluation recommended reinforcing of the TAO's resources and duties to allow it to fully carry out its activities.

National information campaigns (conferences, seminars, publications, Internet etc) were conducted to publicise programme information. The SOCRATES national agencies also played an important role (63.2% of SOCRATES participants contacted their national agency for details of the programme). The success of these information instruments is clear from the rise in number and quality of applications received during the second year of the programme. Despite this, programme information was one of the most criticised points during this first phase (difficult coordination and communication between the different partners, diverse management styles of the national agencies, cultural differences between programme participants etc.) The Commission feels that there is a need to improve the information and programme coordination mechanisms in order to better respond to users' needs and to guarantee the implementation and dissemination of quality products (flexible operation, more streamlined mechanisms).

Finally the Commission wishes to see the development of appropriate means of control, monitoring and evaluation of projects in order to optimise the activities supported. These measures of monitoring and evaluation should encourage continuous reconsideration of the aims of the programme, their structure and mechanisms for implementation, the requirements of the target public and the dissemination of products.

On 12 February 2001 the Commission adopted the final report on the implementation of the Socrates programme 1995-1999 [COM(2001)75 final]

In this report, which takes into account all the available analyses, the Commission presents the results achieved by the Socrates programme for the period 1995-1999 (corresponding to the initial phase of the programme) and highlights certain features of the analysis which should lead to improvements in the programme during the second phase (2000-2006).

The report considers that the programme has contributed to achieving its objectives, notably those linked to the development of European citizenship and improvement of the quality of the education systems in the EU. The programme has also contributed to:

  • improving language knowledge, particularly in the framework of Lingua (one of the Commission's objectives is to ensure that everyone can master two foreign Community languages);
  • encourage the intercultural dimension of education;
  • promote mobility and exchanges (approximately 460 000 students, 40 000 university teachers, 150 000 language learners and language teachers received grants between 1995 and 1999 and the trend is upwards);
  • encourage cooperation between establishments at all levels;
  • encourage the recognition of diplomas, study periods and other qualifications;
  • encourage open and distance education (despite certain difficulties due to the limited budget);
  • promote the pooling of information and experiences;
  • develop high-quality education and training.

However, the programme occasionally proved too ambitious for its limited budget. The report stresses the disparity in results as regards, for example, student mobility; here, an analysis of the flows reveals an imbalance by countries and fields of study, with a growing trend on the part of parents to top up the grants. Besides, the project promoters have drawn attention to the problems of consistency between the Socrates and Leonardo budgets.

However, in the framework of a limited budget, strategic choices will have to be made, notably as regards the main sources of funding for the actions concerned. But it will also be necessary, during the new phase, to strengthen the links between the Socrates and Leonardo programmes - and also the Youth programme - mainly in the shape of "joint actions". Likewise, the links between the different programme actions, in particular Erasmus and Comenius, must be reinforced.

The Commission also wants to encourage analysis of the programme's impact on national education policies so as to increase the programme's impact at national level. Besides, the Commission is considering the introduction of simplified administrative and financial procedures, a more effective communications policy and a more responsive monitoring and evaluation policy.

In conclusion the report states that the success of the programme's second phase will hinge on the human and financial resources earmarked for its implementation. In the context of the growing decentralisation of its activities this means that the national agencies will have to receive sufficient support from the participating countries.

Last updated: 12.07.2001