TWENTE – Students at the University of Twente, Netherlands, simulated a hearing of the European Council in June where they debated the various financing systems used for students, where the project on Financing the Students’ Future (FinSt) was used as a basis.
The students were divided into groups where two students, Casper Van Hoorn and Evert Swarts, represented the European Students’ Union (ESU) as a key stakeholder in the negotiation process.
The main arguments presented by them at the hearing were the following.
- Financing student support is a task of national governments
Giving student support to students should be done by national governments. Student support is an important policy tool for higher education. There are still a lot of differences in the European Higher Education Area (See ‘Mind the Gap’ by Ballas et al (2012)) and it wouldn’t be wise to design one system for all. As there would be a lot of losers in this system.
- All financial student support should be portable
In the Communiqué Bergen we were promised portability of grants and loans to be able to make mobility within the European Higher Education Area reality. The fact that students cannot take their grants and loans abroad is a major obstacle in mobility. We are also against a system designed so students can apply for grant in the host country (the country they are studying), as students often return to their home country and the country getting the advantage of higher educated individuals should also carry the burden. In addition to the portability we proposed a system where differences in purchasing power between countries are compensated, so students from poor countries can fulfil their primary needs in richer countries.
- We are against a European loan institution
As the ESU also posted on their website (30-04-2013 – Alternatives to student loans must be considered), we think promoting student loans in a time of crisis is asking for trouble. It also could turn into a ‘brain drain’ of less developed areas. They can’t pay off their debts by working in their own region, so they will go to more developed areas.
- More grants for poor students
More investment in education on the European level. For example more money for the European Social Fund Porgramme and the Erasmus Grant Scheme.
ESU is happy that the students at the University of Twente were able to bring the findings of the FinSt project into their classroom and that it was used in their debates. One of the key elements of the FinSt project was to contribute to the long term discussions on financing of higher education and to provide students and student representatives with the tools to participate in relevant debates.
All the findings of the FinSt project have been made available on an interactive wiki-style website were readers are also invited to contribute.
“We didn’t know what we were supposed to say about ESU or what it did. So we set out to find what it is you do and why you are sitting at the negotiating table. We were pleasantly surprised with the information available on your website. There was a lot to be found and also a lot about what your position on financing higher education is,” says Van Hoorn about his experience.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 38 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.