BRUSSELS – The newly adopted policy papers of the European Students‘ Union (ESU) on the Social Dimension and Equality of higher education reinforce the organisation‘s commitment to fight for equal treatment at all levels of the education system, regardless of what people‘s circumstances may be. Migrants do often miss out on many of the opportunities that other citizens have and are therefore a key target group in this perspective.
The ninth European Integration Forum, co-organised by the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee, brought together a huge array of civill society organisations from the Members States of the EU, European non-governmental organisations and policy makers to exchange views, best practices and engage in intensive debates on issues related to the integration of so-called third-country migrants in European countries.
Time to act on migrants’ access
Speaking at the initial opening plenary session, Miguel Angel Essomba of the SIRIUS network highlighted two key important tasks for the society to accommodate in these times specifically related to migrants‘ integration in education systems. While policies may be debated at length, formulated and perfected – it is now the time to move to an implementation phase. The most immaculate policy is worthless unless it is implemented fully, reviewed, improved and it benefits both society and migrants. Furthermore, focusing on the logic of the discourse, it is time to abandon the term ‘integration’ when discussing this topic and move to ‘inclusion.’
“This was a very interesting debate as ESU has focused on what changes are needed to reach the goal of inclusion of people of a migrant and ethnic minority background in higher education. The system must embrace change to include those who are currently being left behind. National and local policy-makers and institutions must change to adapt to the evident needs of migrants and migrant communities,” says Aengus Ó Maoláin, ESU’s Coordinator for Equality in Higher Education who attended the forum and spoke about the need to access higher education.
Very often, the specific demands of migrant students become clear far earlier than the age at which access to higher education will turn into an issue.
“Changing one’s culture is a vastly more complex issue than changing one’s nationality. We must support a proactive promotion of understanding, not just of the existence and internal complexities, but also the benefits of higher education systems. On an institutional level, universities must be more open to embrace targeted minorities and to tear down the mental walls that all people with a poor family history confront when seeking education,” says Ó Maoláin.
Integration policies miss their targets
This year‘s disturbances in Stockholm, Athens, Paris and Barcelona have brought the flaws of national integration policies to the limelight.
“It is not easy to find a solution to these complex problems, but they certainly cannot be addressed with normal policy-making procedures. People of a migrant background must be proactively included in decision making at all levels, from the town hall to the University Senate,” says Ó Maoláin.
ESU operates a working group on ethnic minorities and migrants that will present its final conclusions to ESU´s member organisations in the upcoming weeks.
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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.