BRUSSELS – The European Students’ Union (ESU) fully supports the new attempt of the European Commission to introduce clear and more consistent rules for non-EU nationals, who come to the EU for studies or scientific research.
“This is an extremely positive initiative. It can help to improve the conditions for students or researchers coming from outside the European Union (EU) to obtain visas or residence permits and therefore gain rights to access the labour market, healthcare system or other benefits in the EU. It is also essential, if we may speak of a consolidated European Higher Education Area, which extends much further than the borders of the 27 EU Member States reach,” says Karina Ufert, ESU’s Chairperson.
Unnecessary administrative burdens
Administrative deterrents have made student mobility a complicated target to reach between EU and non-EU countries within the European Higher Education Area, but especially in case of students that are coming from outside that region. Since Directive 2004/114/EC was introduced, several countries have made improvements in terms of removing visa restrictions and to ease residential permits procedures as noted in ESU’s publication Bologna With Student Eyes 2012. The national unions of students in eight European countries reported that incoming students did still face many barriers and unnecessary administrative burdens, such as delayed processing of applications and decisions to grant visas or residence permits.
The European Commission hopes that two existing directives on students and researchers will be replaced and modified by a single new directive by 2016. In addition to imposing time limits and to harmonise the regulatory framework used by national authorities when handling applications from international students and researchers from outside the EU, it would also improve their access to the labour market across the EU. The proposal has been sent to the European Council and the European Parliament that will take it into consideration in the coming future. ESU calls for the decision-makers to approve the proposal and put significant efforts into implementing it within the EU.
Unequal treatment of students
International students often have to face unequal treatment in many Member States of the EU when compared to EU based nationals. In a recent study conducted by ESU, it was found that 23 out of 26 countries observed in Europe charged non-EU students with special tuition fees not applicable to European nationals. Only Norway, Finland and Malta had not installed such fees.
“We need to recognise the social and economical contribution of international students to our societies. Not only do they improve our cultural awareness and enrich our societies by bringing in other perspectives and knowledge, but also many of them are very willing to work and contribute to our economies. This can for example be seen in the Netherlands, where a study has shown that it would be enough if only a portion of the international students will remain for it to pay off to the Dutch economy,” says Ufert.
Over 200 thousand students and researchers from outside the EU seek to move to Europe every year for the purposes of studies, pupils’ exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service according to estimations provided by the European Commission.
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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.