SOCRATES Programme

European Community action programme in the field of education (2000-2006)

The objectives of Socrates

Socrates is Europe’s education programme and involves around 30 European countries.
Its main objective is precisely to build up a Europe of knowledge and thus provide a better response to the major challenges of this new century: to promote lifelong learning, encourage access to education for everybody, and help people acquire recognised qualifications and skills. In more specific terms, Socrates seeks to promote language learning, and to encourage mobility and innovation.


Socrates advocates European cooperation in all areas of education. This cooperation takes different forms: mobility (moving around Europe), organising joint projects, setting up European networks (disseminating ideas and good practice), and conducting studies and comparative analyses.
In practice, Socrates offers people grants to study, teach, undertake a placement or follow a training course in another country. It provides support for educational establishments to organise teaching projects and to exchange experiences. It helps associations and NGOs in organising activities on educational topics, etc.
One golden rule must be respected: only activities which have a European dimension based on transnational cooperation may receive financial assistance.

School in the broad sense

Socrates targets all forums of learning irrespective of level, ranging from nursery school to university. This includes adult education, which often involves more informal pathways.
Educational establishments cannot fulfil their mission behind close doors and must open up to new ideas and practices, e.g. by building up partnerships with establishments in other countries or working with the various players of civil society.

Everyone is concerned

Socrates targets all the members of the education community, and this truly means everybody:

  • pupils during compulsory schooling, students, people – the young and the not so young alike – wishing to return to learning;
  • teachers being trained or in service; ancillary, administrative and managerial staff involved in education;
  • educational establishments of all types; – but also all external interested parties: civil servants and decision makers; local and regional authorities; parents’ associations; the social partners; the business sector; associations and NGOs.

Common priorities

Whatever the target groups and whatever the type of project, Socrates sets out to stress the multi-cultural character of Europe as one of the cornerstones of active citizenship. It supports the education of the least advantaged groups of people. It endeavours to counter social exclusion and under-achievement at school. It promotes equal opportunities for women and men irrespective of circumstances. It sets great store by the new information communication technologies (ICT). It encourages the learning of the different European languages, and innovation in education.

Eight actions

Socrates comprises eight separate actions:

  • Comenius: school education
  • Erasmus: higher education
  • Grundtvig: adult education and other education pathways
  • Lingua: learning European languages
  • Minerva: information and communication technologies (ICT) in education
  • Observation and innovation of education systems and policies
  • Joint actions with other European programmes
  • Supplementary measures

Further information on Socrates is obtainable from:

    • The Socrates national agency in your country (see below)
    • The Internet site:
    • For more detailed information on Socrates consult the brochure “Socrates, gateway to education”.
    • For technical details and help in submitting an application, consult the “Guidelines for Applicants”.

Participating countries

There are a total of 31 countries taking part:

- The 15 European Union countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

- Three EFTA countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

- The 10 associated countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

- Cyprus, Malta and, in due course, Turkey.