VIENNA – Delegates of the 47 national unions of students that are members of the European Students’ Union (ESU) had an extremely productive meeting in Vienna, Austria, from 1 to 4 May. They adopted twenty external resolutions on issues of their concern as well as a new policy paper on European governing structures.
Many of the adopted resolutions shed light on national developments in higher education from the students’ perspectives. ESU condemns the Spanish government for not consulting students about major policies in higher education and calls for full student participation in implementing the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. ESU also showed its concerns about student rights, such as in relation to a new Maltese regulation that might infringe students’ data protection. Furthermore, ESU demanded that Finnish authorities provide quality health care to all students and denounced financial restrictions on the mobility of male students that did not perform army duties in Armenia.
Then, ESU adopted several resolutions on the financing of higher education, opposing systematic changes in the Netherlands, calling for refinancing of higher education in Belgium, denouncing cuts to disabled students’ allowance in England and supporting plans in Latvia to remove limitations to deductible student expenses. It also criticised Swiss authorities for their plans to triple tuition fees for foreign university students, as well as the Austrian government for merging the country’s Ministry of Science and Research with the Ministry of Economics, which may have a negative impact on independent research in Austria and contribute to the commodification of higher education.
Global issues of concern to students
The meeting also adopted a number of resolutions with a global scope. It called for the abolition of so-called ‘zero-hour’ employment contracts, which require employees to be constantly available although they are only remunerated for a certain number of hours. Additionally, it supported actions against tax evasion and a fair tax distribution. Then, the meeting supported the Women in Leadership programme, urging national unions of students to tackle the underrepresentation of women in student bodies and decision-making bodies in higher education. The students also stressed how important it is to include goals for achieving quality higher education in the post-2015 development goals of the United Nations.
The participants showed their concerns about serious human rights violations, such as the ongoing incarceration of the Iranian student activist Bahareh Hedyat and the recent kidnappings of 230 schoolgirls in Nigeria. The meeting supported initiatives giving persecuted students the opportunity to complete their studies.
Lastly, the meeting strongly encouraged all students to use their democratic rights and vote in the European elections from 22 to 25 May 2014 and urged a new parliament to work according to a list of students’ wishes throughout its political mandate.
European governing structures and the Bologna process
The policy paper adopted at the meeting, enlists ESU’s opinions on what role the European Union and national governments should play in higher education. It also contains students’ perceptions on the current status and further development of the Bologna process. Additionally, the students’ unions adopted amendments to a policy paper introduced last year on the quality of higher education.
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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.