The EIESP was founded in 1975 by the European Cultural Foundation (the Secretary-General was Raymond Georis) to meet a need of the European Commission by contributing to the development of cooperation in education in Europe.
During the 1980s the EIESP played a strategic role in the launching of the European Commission programmes to support student mobility. The Institute was responsible for designing and managing the pilot operation for the ERASMUS programme and contributed to the first generation of European education programmes. The EIESP also worked on employment and social policy issues in cooperation with the Centre for Work and Society of the Université de Paris IX Dauphine, directed at that period by Jacques Delors.
The EIESP, which is self-funding on the basis of its contracts and activities, is based in Paris at the Ecole Supérieur de Commerce de Paris (ESCP). It has a small core staff and an extensive network of associate experts and institutional partners. Since 2012, the Chair of the Board has been Jean-Claude Ruano Borbalan, an Associate Professor at the CNAM in Paris. The Director is Janet Looney.