BUDAPEST – The Hungarian government tends to ask students that protest, why they are in the streets when a decision to raise tuition fees will not apply to them. Why bother? But the problem here and elsewhere in Europe is much deeper. It is not only a single case involving tuition fees in Hungary, but more about how decision-makers see us, the young people. How the decisions, that affect our present and future, are taken on our behalf. The year 2012 leaves us little hope for the future. Youth unemployment rates are soaring, there is a significant lack of a political leadership on the European level and the idea of a consolidated Europe is being challenged.
When it comes to higher education, we keep on getting surprised by the new inventions, such as replacing grants with loans as a trend both on the European and national level. Interestingly, we speak so much about good practices, but maybe sometimes it is also worth it to look into bad ones. Americans, for example, owe more nowadays on student loans than on credit cards. What we clearly saw in 2012 is that diplomas are no guarantees from unemployment or low-paying jobs. Contradicting political statements and actions was another disappointment of this year. In the UK, Ireland, Portugal and more we saw politicians break their election pleas by cutting education budgets and students’ support. On the European level, the future of the Erasmus programme cleared up only in the last days before the Christmas holidays. What can be seen as numbers and statistics to the member states, are real concerns for students and their families.
Why is the picture so grim? Because sometimes there is a need for us to have a shock therapy in order to get out of the comfort zone and start acting. European students´ movements can offer an alternative, in case we stop caring about feelings, by focusing on the ideas, a vision for higher education and our societies. If we show our solidarity with our counterparts, fighting for access to higher education for all here and everywhere in the world; if we continue to develop our expertise and strengthen the role of competent partners in the Bologna process.
Possible is everything if you are committed to the ideals. Does it sound too idealistic? Ask the Hungarian students, who currently give no leeway to their government, but to listen to their demands.
I wish us all an ambitious 2013, but before a wonderful Christmas break.
Karina Ufert, Chairperson of the European Students’ Union (ESU)
The 23rd European Students’ Convention took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the participants drafted recommendations to get young Europe out of the crisis. Read more about the convention in a seperate news article here.
In the 24th Students´ Convention, held in Limassol, Cyprus, the participants main message was to denounce any statements saying that the economic crisis could be used to cut back on education. Read more about the meeting here.
Representatives of ESU took part in the International Students’ Day that is celebrated annually. This time they gathered in Brussels to send decision-makers a message saying that education could be used as a solution to the crisis. Read more about it here.
ESU takes part in organising many external events as well as internal. One of them was a roundtable discussion on the student loan scheme as proposed by the European Commission under the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020. Read more about the event here.
ESU celebrated not only its thirty years anniversary in 2012, but also a great success in promoting ESU’s activities to outside partners in the past few years. ESU publishes many reports, sends out statements and press releases and contributes actively to discussions on topics relevant to students’ interests. Find our anniversary publication here.
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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.