COPENHAGEN - The 23rd European Students Convention discussed employability and employment from 17 to 19 March in Copenhagen. The event, jointly organised by the European Students’ Union (ESU) and the Danish National Union of Students (DSF) resulted in the 'Copenhagen Declaration' - 10 recommendations for national governments on how to overcome the difficulties young graduates are faced with when finding a job.
The recommendations aim to take both the short-term situation of the economic crisis as well as the long-term targets of the EU and the EHEA into account. Allan Päll, ESU Chairperson, said: “European governments should really improve the situation for young people who are struggling to find a job and try to help them as much as they can. We hope that these recommendations will lead to better job perspective for young graduates.”
The ‘Copenhagen declaration’ consists out of the following recommendations:
1. Quality of mobility and learning outcomes. The high quality of the international experience must be recognized at European and national and institutional level, as soft and hard skills gained through mobility are crucial for employability. Governments and higher education institutions should work closer with business and employers to articulate and recognize the value of mobility. Institutions must ensure mobility periods have clearly defined, set learning outcomes. All mobility tools should therefore be set help students achieve these learning outcomes. Moreover, students should have the appropriate information to make informed choices regarding the institution and/or organization where they undertake mobility, based on a focus on the learning experience.
2. Social enhancement. Equality of opportunity in student mobility plays a crucial role in social enhancement. To this end, HEIs need to provide each and every student an opportunity to study abroad, which contributes to truly internationalized HE institutions. It is vital that every program has a mobility window that is accessible for all. For this to be achieved, all students must be able to easily access sufficient information in order to plan and prepare their study abroad experience. Where there is no mobility window within a study program, this must be highlighted and rectified.
3. Erasmus. Increased funding for Erasmus should be prioritized, by increasing the size of individual grants as well as the volume of overall grants available. As financing remains the key barrier to mobility, participation from underrepresented groups should be specifically targeted and addressed.
4. Erasmus. The proposed European loan scheme will not solve the problem of social mobility.
5. Constructing employability. High quality work experience opportunities are a good way of developing skills; these should be paid at least at minimum wage where other forms of support are not available. Such opportunities should not under any circumstance be used as a means of free or cheap labour, as is increasingly the case as a result of the ongoing economic crisis.
6. Education as a public good. Students need funds for living, necessary transportation, and in some cases, the payment of tuition fees. Funding should be available in an amount that makes studies, changing fields of study, and mobility possible. Education is a societal responsibility and a public good, and therefore it requires a societal investment. Institutions and governments shall be transparent regarding the use of public funds for education and mobility, and shall participate in discussions about the effectiveness and efficiency of spending behavior within higher education. The use and amount of tuition fees shall be limited.?
7. Employer responsibility. The employer is responsible for providing and supporting of the employee LLL, respecting labour rights and shall maintain open dialogue with HEIs. Internships + work places which should be of high quality and relevance.
8. Government responsibility. Governments should be responsible for guaranteeing access to the labour market and preventing discrimination. They shall provide support and grants for HEI programs to developing employability. Governments are also responsible for the development of the expanded and coherent labour markets. Governments shall initiate and mediate the dialogue between academia, government entities, business and industry to create coherent cooperation.
9. Institutional responsibility. Institutions of higher education and labor markets shall cooperate to accomplish common goals. Access to and success in higher education shall be available to all who wish to study. Business and industry shall work together with higher education in a responsible manner.
10. Students’ responsibility. The European Students’ Union, National Unions of Students, and local unions shall be responsible for developing and communicating coherent strategies regarding these issues and shall use them in lobbying activities at the institutional and national levels.
These recommendations come from the input and discussions of hundreds of delegates and experts from a variety of countries within the European Higher Education Area. The hours and weeks of work put into the process reflect the importance of these recommendations to the participating organizations, their members, and their constituencies. As such, the undersigned are dedicated to their realization with all expediency.