EWP stands for Erasmus without Paper, which was originally an Ersamus+ project (2015-2019) and now an electronic Network. Its chief goal is to digitalise the administrative framework that underpins student mobility in Europe, enabling electronic data exchange and interoperability among diverse information systems. In March 2019 the European Commission announced that the usage of EWP will be made mandatory from 2021 as part of the next Multi-annual financial framework (MFF) i.e. the next Erasmus programme. This was confirmed and elaborated in the Erasmus goes digital webinar on 5/3/2020.
EWP consists of two chief components: a network that interconnects a multitude of student information systems (whether individual universities or third-party providers which represent multiple institutions) through the use of APIs and a Dashboard that provides a web solution for exchanging student data electronically for HEIs lacking the required SIS software. The present document focuses exclusively on the EWP network and the connection to it; the compliance and use of the dashboard is the object of a different set of documents.
The overwhelming majority of student information now exchanged in the context of the Erasmus programme is exchanged by email or even by normal post, and seldom the personal information in it is encrypted. Such procedures are not GDPR compliant, and EWP provides an infinitely more secure fashion through which to exchange such digital data. In addition, EWP exchanges data in real-time and is extremely labour efficient. No double work any longer. Finally, the European Commission has decided that by 2025 all institutions will have to be digitally connected in the European Digital Higher Education Area.
Yes, the EWP Network is completely free. But there are indirect costs. Implementing the EWP APIs (connectors) to the database software of an institution will require technical ICT development since most software at HEIs needs to be made ready for data exchange outside their own servers. Usually, this means the interface has to be changed as well. It is therefore imperative that HEIs start up this ICT development urgently. If you use third-party tools, it is your provider who will make the connection. We are in contact with many, but it requires them to invest in ICT development as well. In principle, no extra money can be charged for the use of a module that allows exchanges through the EWP Network. Finally, the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard is a completely free tool for interinstitutional agreements and learning agreements.
The EWP Network is the electronic 'internet' that is used to connect the database of HEIs (either their own or through 3d party vendors such as Mobility Online or MoveOn) with each other, so they can communicate with each other and exchange information. In order to enable that, the EWP project has devised a number of APIs (connectors) than can connect HEI database software to the Network. The EWP/Erasmus Dashboard (both names refer to the same) is a free stand-alone software tool for those HEIs that don't have dedicated software to connect to the EWP Network. At the moment the Dashboard can take care of Online Learning Agreements and Inter-institutional Agreements. The Dashboard is now being connected to the EWP Network and once this connection is operational (already operational for the inter-institutional agreements and early 2021 for OLA) it will be able to connect to any HEI that is part of the EWP Network and exchange data with it. So if you use the Dashboard, you are already connected to the EWP network, at least for the services it offers. Registering for the Dashboard is different from registering for the EWP Network (the latter is mainly a technical procedure).
In March 2019 the European Commission announced that the EWP standards will be mandatory from the beginning of the new Erasmus Programme in January 2021. The timetable they put forward was:
2021: Online learning agreements
2022: Inter-institutional agreements
2023: Nominations and Transcripts of records
In practice there are 3 ways to do this:
A HEI implements the APIs itself
A HEI uses a third party software tool
A HEI uses the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard
A combination is possible, but you cannot combine tools for the same API service (e.g. usin,g the Dashboard AND commercial software simultaneouslty for Learning agreements)
In practice, this means that HEIs can gradually introduce the changes, even though the EWP Network already has operational APIs for all of the processes in student exchanges as we speak. For a detailed description of the EWP APIs click here. Our third-party provider EWP partners (Mobility Online (AT), MoveON (UK), USOS (PL), Cineca (IT), Sigma (ES), FS (No)), have committed to implement all APIs in their business development plan, but the exact timetable is, of course, their own responsibility.
Finally, the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard will be fully EWP compatible as of early 2021.
You could also start with one solution for a particular API service and later on change to another one, as long as you don't use two solutions for the same service at the same time.
The EWP network is strictly a middle layer solution where no information exchanged among the parties is ever stored. It follows a hub and spoke design, where the only centralised service is a registry that contains the identification info of the various members’ servers and the list of APIs (the connectors) implemented at each member’s server. A university server wishing to initiate a data transaction consults the identification data of the concerned partner in the registry and sends a data package directly to the receiving server via the relevant API. The data package is encrypted according to EWP-defined standards ensuring the communication cannot be accessed by other parties; this guarantees high levels of security and privacy. Each server takes care of the authentication and user rights of its own users.
Yes. The EWP infrastructure itself only facilitates the exchange of data and does not handle any storage or processing of data. Each university is responsible for ensuring the informed consent of their students prior to exchanging their personal information with partner institutions through EWP. Further efforts involving the European Commission and National Authorities are underway to ensure the data minimisation is systematically applied to the EWP data dictionaries, which are based on the official templates set out by EU. The rules of GDPR do, however, apply to the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard because it stores data. More info here.
The answer is no. You need to be connected to the EWP Network and be known in the EWP registry. This can be done through connecting your HEI's software by implementing the EWP APIs; through a third-party provider that makes the connection for all of its clients or by using the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard.
No. Here again, there are several scenarios.
- Your HEI can implement some or all of the EWP APIs and in this way connect to the EWP Network. This usually requires ICT development, not only for the connection itself (server-side implementation) but also for the Interface (client-side implementation). Most internal HEI software is not yet suited for external data exchange, so this needs to be changed. But it can be done in stages (one API after another).
- For the Learning Agreements and the Interinstitutional Agreements, you can use the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard (temporarily or permanently) . But of course, that means that you cannot do this it in your own internal software any longer.
- A third option is to use the software of a third-party software provider (commercial or not). You can be connected to the EWP Network via different software tools, but not with more than 1 software tool at the same time per service.
You don't join or register for EWP personally, your institution does. A distinction has to be made between registering for the EWP network and the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard.
- Registering for the Dashboard: there you register personally for your institution. The Dashboard is a separate tool that allows you to manage OLAs an IIAs. The data in those can then be exchanged over the EWP Network.
- Joining through 3rd party software: in that case you don't need to join at all. The software provider does it for you and you use the logins you already have for the software. Contact them to get all the details on what they are doing in terms of EWP.
- The third option to join is to connect your institution's internal software to the EWP Network. This involves ICT development, and e.g. IRO persons cannot normally do this on their own. The institution will assign the logins as you work via the HEI's own server. The full procedure can be found here.
At the moment no exchange of financial data is possible, since the first aim of the EWP project was to implement all the templates supplied by the European Commission. But EWP is not limited to its present APIs and even external providers can suggest new APIs to be supported and even design them. They can contact the EWP team if they want to do so. Software that is useful for other HEIs can also be shared in the Open Source University Alliance (OSUA). More info can be found on EWP's dedicated website.
EWP is not limited to Europe. Any institution (or third-party provider) can join EWP and implement the APIs. Since EWP is based on the data templates used in Erasmus, the data formats have to be made compatible, but apart from that there are no restrictions. The EWP team has in fact already been in contact with many educational data providers outside Europe through the Groningen Declaration Network.
The Erasmus Without Paper Dashboard has been made available to make this possible and as of now allows for the management of Online Learning Agreements and Inter-institutional Agreements. More functionality will be added in the future.
More technical questions
Yes. The EWP network uses up to date security and authentication protocols. EWP is meant for HEI staff, and they log in using their own HEI login. The HEI sets the rights (to the server) itself. So everyone who is given the rights to login to the server connected to the EWP Network, can use EWP. For the technically oriented, an overview of EWP security measures can be found at https://developers.erasmuswithoutpaper.eu/ in chapter 2, more particularly in sections 2.2 - 2.6. Of interest is also https://github.com/erasmus-without-paper/ewp-specs-sec-intro/tree/v2.0.2 where a good and detailed description of the "Authentication and Security" issues can be found.
The functionality of the EWP Network is defined by its APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), i.e. services (specified in the GitHub platform) which can be used by network participants to exchange data. Each API specifies how to connect to the EWP Network for a specific purpose. There are APIs to identify HEIs and others to create and exchange Nominations, Interinstitutional Agreements, Learning Agreements, Courses, Transcript of Records and many more. New APIs (with new services) can be added to the EWP Network at any time. A summary and description of the EWP APIs can be found here.
The answer depends on what category of user you are. If you are an HEI without any dedicated mobility software, you can use the EWP/Erasmus Dashboard (for Online Learning Agreements and/or Interinstitutional Agreements) to connect to the EWP Network. If you use a third-party provider they will be connecting you to the EWP Network. But if you have your own internal Student Information System (SIS) mobility software, you will need to have ICT support to connect your software to the EWP Network and implement the APIs. In that case there are 2 main tasks that have to be done:
1. the server of your HEI has to be connected to the EWP Network (giving the EWP APIs access to the data stored in the databases - this is implemented in the backend of your system) but
2. your present software interface has to be adapted as well to give the user access to the new possibilities - this part has to be implemented in the frontend of your system). Some would also call this distinction server-side and client-side implementation respectively.
Your technical solution may combine several types of implementation as a start (e.g using third party software for some services, your own system for others and the Dashboard for Online Learning agreements and/or the Interinstitutional Agreement Manager) but you always have to make sure that the same service (API) is implemented by only 1 solution. You can, therefore, implement APIs in a phased way.
EWP and the Mobility Tool+ (MT+) team have been working to connect the EWP Network to the MT+. At present specifications have been developed and agreed upon and basic connectivity realised; furthermore, the University of Porto created a network node for the exclusive usage of MT+. This network node will handle all the security and verification steps pertaining to requests made from the EWP Network directed to the MT+, and ensure the connection with their servers. The node also handles responses from the MT+ servers and ensures their accurate delivery to the relevant node in the EWP network. Furthermore, three relatively simple APIs, for reading data from the tool were designed, tested and posted in the PROD Network. The more important APIs - for the automatic reporting of the mobility data - are still being developed and tested by the involved technical teams.
If you have a question that you think is worth including or you feel a particular answer is not clear enough, let us know.
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