In 1987 a plan to create an extensive mobility scheme for higher education was approved by the European Community (EC). One part of this was the Erasmus programme – about exchange for students in order to provide the opportunity to spend part of their studies abroad.

In 1989 the Erasmus Bureau invited 32 former Erasmus Students for an evaluation meeting in Ghent, Belgium. This meeting was a starting point for Erasmus Student Network. During that meeting many issues arose about the Erasmus experience: such problems became the main tasks for the founders of ESN International to work on. Behind all this project stood the idea of “students helping students”, which has remained the most important motto in the work of 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 organized 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 became the first president in ESN history.

By 1994 ESN already had 60 sections in 14 countries and it was growing year by year. Unfortunately some of the sections also disappeared. 10 years on, in 2004, the ESN network consisted of 170 sections inside and outside of Europe, from Scandinavia to Morocco. The new technologies had tremendously enhanced the opportunities for collaboration among sections and frequent meetings were strengthening the ties between ESN members, as well as increased the possibility to exchange ideas and work together for a better future.

In 2003 and up to 2004 ESN was a remarkable network of local student clubs, or ‘sections’, working for the benefit of local students. However, we were still a ‘baby organisation’ at the national and especially at international level: there were but a few national boards and the yearly turnover of the organisation was tremendously undersized if compared with the networks ambitions. Furthermore, the very idea of an international level organised, structured as a centre of provision of services was questioned thoroughly and shared as a wish of a handsome of visionaries. What happened in 2004 and 2005 was that such a vision was made reality.