Over the past decades, ESU has gradually moved from being a regional information exchange bureau to a strong and an established voice representing students in Europe, with 47 national unions of students from 39 countries on board (April 2013). This development has followed external factors such as the emerging European higher education system and improved student mobility.
ESU has directed its political focus towards institutions that are based in Brussels, aiming at shaping policies in higher education and guarding the interests of students in Europe which is the primary goal of ESU. In order to serve this purpose, ESU has undergone an exhaustive self-evaluation process that came to an end in mid-2011. As a result, the political structure of the organisation was changed where new representatives were voted in two consecutive Board Meetings held in Tallinn in May 2011 and Sofia in November 2011. These changes reflect the need for an organisation such as ESU to have flexible working methods while strengthening its role in Europe at the same time.
ESU actively seeks new methods for students and to widen its network to provide crucial advice and consultancy in relations to higher education reforms and students' involvement. Undoubtedly it is important to ensure that ESU’s membership base has a shared sense of an identity for a European organisation, eager to improve its internal culture and commit to its work. As the external environment demands action on behalf of students, it is incredibly important that ESU could serve as a uniting platform for student unions fighting to reach sustainable, accessible and high quality higher education in Europe. Achieving on the agreed priorities means that ESU must focus on building on the available resources, organising capacity building, managing internal and external communications, re-allocating as well as finding new resources. This was a clear message sent at ESU's Board Meetings in 2011.
ESU's Board Meetings
Each member union is represented at Board Meetings that are held bi-annually in order to shape ESU's policies and work. The Board agrees among else on its plan of work, statements, external motions and policy documents. More importantly, it elects eight to ten members of the Executive Committee to take care of ESU's daily work and to implement the agreed decisions and policies. Each country is given the value of two votes at these meetings.
Three political representatives have been representing ESU full-time since July 2012 that are based in Brussels. One of them seves as a Chairperson to the organisation and the two others as Vice-Chairpersons. Tasks are divided among these representatives where the Chairperson is responsible as a spokesperson for the organisation and represents ESU at most official meetings with intergovernmental bodies and other stakeholders. The Vice-Chairpersons are responsible for running the organisation and other daily tasks.
ESU's Executive Committee
Specific policies and ESU's political representation is guided by an Executive Committee that has replaced a number of smaller committees and working groups that were active previously. This executive body consists of the three presidency members and five to seven Executive Committee members that are all elected at board meetings with a one year mandate.
The Executive Committee chooses additionally coordinators to take care of membership, equality and student rights' advocacy issues. The first coordinators were selected in 2012 in order to enhance ESU's representation, to support the capacity building of ESU's member organisations and to improve relations with student organisations that are currently outside ESU's network.
Student Experts' Pool
ESU has also created a specialised student experts' pools in order to reach out to a wider range of students. A student experts' pool on quality assurance has been active, promoting the involvement of students in quality assurance activities in Europe and reviews.
The daily work of the organisation is supported by a professional secretariat consisting of five staff members, that is a Communication Manager, Project Officer, Project Assistant, Financial Officer and an Executive Assistant (April 2013). The secretariat was extended as a part of ESU's internal restructuring process and because an increasing work load, where ESU is among else involved in several research projects that are co-funded by the European Commission and a number of other partnerships. The secretariat is also strongly involved in managing the finances of the organisation, external and internal communication in addition to other tasks.
ESU's Working Groups
ESU takes part in a Global Cooperation Working Group (GCWG) in order to strengthen cooperation among students all around the world and to organise global student summits. ESU also places importance on the work done by the Ethnic Minorities Working Group that deals with access of different minorities to higher education.
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