STRASBOURG – Responding to the work on student mobility of Council of Europe’s Sub-Committee on Education, Youth and Sport on 10 April, the European Students’ Union (ESU) stressed that funding and recognition of higher education studies continue to be the main obstacles in achieving further progress in that area. Mobility remains to be an option for the elite that can afford it, especially those individuals that come from families with a higher education background.
Erin Nordal, a member of the Executive Committee of ESU, attended the committee’s hearing on this issue. She emphasised that access to mobility opportunities must be improved for it to become a possibility for all students. The social dimension has not been taken into account sufficiently and many groups are still underrepresented for that reason. Students with disabilities represented only 0,14% of Erasmus students during the academic year 2011-2012, to name one example. A real effort must be made to attend to the different needs that students have in order to make mobility a possibility for all students and clear targets followed both at the national and European level.
Three barriers to mobility
Funding remains to be the largest barrier to student mobility. Although ministers from the European Higher Education Area have promised to make financial support for students fully portable since the Bergen conference of the Bologna Process in 2005, this is still not a reality in a large majority of the countries. Insufficient financial support to mobile students also contributes to imbalanced mobility flows between countries and regions.
“Countries must guarantee that students have full financial support without any restrictions when participating in both credit- and full-degree mobility programmes,” says Nordal.
Tuition fees for third country students (students from outside of the EU/EEA-area) was also discussed at the hearing. ESU has been highly critical to this type of exploitation of internationalisation and the perception of students as being a source of revenue. ESU believes that this method of financing education goes against the principles of the Bologna-process, where education is defined as a public good. It is also counter-productive to the fulfilment of the societal role of higher education and a discriminatory practice affecting students from several countries where ESU's member unions are active and other member states of the Council of Europe, as well as other third country students residing in Europe.
Far too many students report that their studies are delayed after they return from their activities abroad. This makes academic recognition the second largest barrier in students’ eyes. Governments must revise legislations in order to make recognition of educational qualifications easier and more transparent for students. Automatic recognition of such qualifications needs to be prioritised and properly implemented.
A report to be expected
ESU welcomes the fact that the Council of Europe is prioritising this issue and hopes that its report will take these concerns of students into account.
“We look forward to our further cooperation with the sub-committee and opportunities to provide it with an input from students,” says Nordal.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.