Nel 1987 un progetto per creare uno schema di mobilità estensiva per l'istruzione superiore fu approvato dalla
Comunità Europea (EC). Una parte di questo era il programma Erasmus, per studenti a cui dare l'opportunità di effettuare una parte dei loro studi all'estero.
Nel 1989 l'Agenzia Erasmus invità 32 ex studenti Erasmus per un meeting di valutazione a Gent, in Belgio. Questo meeting fu il punto di partenza di Erasmus Student Network. I problemi che scaturirono dalla valutazione divennero i principali compiti su cui lavorare per i fondatori di ESN. Dietro tutto ciò nacque l'idea di "studenti che aiutano studenti", che è tutt'ora il motto dei volontari di ESN.
ESN sections were founded in various European universities, and with financial support from the EC, in October, 1990 the meeting for the official founding of ESN International was organised in Copenhagen, Denmark with 49 participants from almost all member states of the EC. ESN International became a legal association. Desiree Majoor from Utrecht, Netherlands was the first president in ESN history.
By 1994 ESN already had 60 sections in 14 countries and it was growing year by year. 16 years after the creation, ESN network consists of 220 sections in 28 European countries as well as in Morocco. New technology has tremendously improved collaboration between sections and frequent meetings strengthen the ties between ESN members as well as serve the possibility to exchange ideas and work together for a better future.
In September 2005, ESN established a seat in Brussels, with the President, the Vice President and the ESN Secretary working full time. ESN House is a place where the Board lives and where the ESN volunteers
can stay while exploring the European capital.
The interest among students to spend part of their studies abroad is continuously increasing. As the Bologna declaration, signed by European Ministers of Education in 1999, states the aim to reach 3 million exchange students by the year 2010, ESN network is more needed than ever to strengthen the Socrates/ Erasmus Programme. Nowadays, when more exchange programmes are being created, ESN continues to assist not only
those who are abroad as Erasmus, but all the exchange students, also those from Asia and Americas.
Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a student organisation founded in 1990 for supporting and developing student exchange.
ESN is working in Higher Education (HE)
- Offering services to 150.000 students
- mainly on a volunteer basis
- with an average annual growth rate of 12,3% since 1990
ESN is to create a more mobile and flexible education environment by supporting and developing the student exchange from different levels, and providing an intercultural experience also to those students who cannot access a period abroad ("internationalisation at home").