February 2009
 Issue 10
Dear Friends,

In a world where change appears to be the metaphor of choice, one thing seems to be constant in amongst the tornado of transformation and 'progress' around us.  And that is that no matter how many good intentions are expressed on paper, regardless of how many encouraging and inspirational words are uttered in meetings or conferences, and no matter how many times 'stakeholders' churn out press releases or issue policy responses lambasting the lack of visible progress, the change from 'all talk', to 'talk plus action' continues so often to elude us.  This was the overwhelming realisation that hit me last week in helping to draft ESU's Prague Students' Declaration towards the Bologna Process.  Reflecting on our message about aspiration needing to translate into action, I realised that we had been making the same point since the Process started a decade ago.  Flicking through some of the websites of the Brussels-based European media only served to reinforce the point - regardless of the subject matter, regardless how far back in time you go, the common feature is a call from those lobbying the political elite from the outside for words to be matched by actions.   

So if this really is the nature of politics, if it does, in fact, amount to a hefty amount of spin and only a sprinkling of substance to create an illusion of 'change', shouldn't we all just pack up and retire to a beautiful villa on the Portuguese coast?  Tempting, but perhaps not. For while so many of the words that reach our ears from elected officials amount to little more than additional C02 in the atmosphere, looking back from whence we started to where we currently stand, the progress graph does, in general, appear to be curving gently upwards.  'Hope for the best, plan for the worst,' is a motto passed onto me by my father, which viewed through the murky lens of political lobbying could be translated as, 'Demand a Gucci bag, but prepare to receive a Mango purse.' Far from meaning we should abandon the fight, it's more about accepting the political realities that surround us, taking the words we see and hear with a hefty spoonful of salt and feeling pride for each tiny step towards our goals that we manage to eek out.

The road on which we operate can sometimes feel like a circular highway with no exits.  But instead of dwelling on the fact that we're not travelling at the speed we'd like, let's all remember that we wouldn't even have got the engine started if we abandoned the game altogether.

Until next month,


Editor - The Student Voice
Bologna to 2020: ESU launches its Prague Students' Declaration
BolognaESU has kickstarted its campaign of work leading up the Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process in April by launching its student declaration towards this crucial meeting.  Gathering in Prague last week (15-19th February), more than 100 national student representatives from over 30 countries came together to analyse the progress made on Bologna over the last 10 years, and to formulate a common voice towards the shape the Process should take in the next decade to 2020.


Dismay over EU Ministers' 'commitmentphobia' on higher education policy
Education CouncilESU has reacted with dismay to the latest developments in EU education policy following a recent Council meeting of Education Ministers.  The EU's recently published updated strategic framework on cooperation in education and training, which sets the policy tone for the next decade, was already lacking in benchmarks, concrete action on mobility and proper public financing commitments.  But at the Education Council meeting on 16th February, the consensus among Member States was to water down proposals even further, specifically the one calling for Member States to commit to allocating 2% of GDP to higher education.  Although there was talk at the meeting of further 'bilateral' negotiations in the next couple of months in order to reach an agreement, the likelihood is that this target will either be removed completely or watered down further when the strategic framework is formally adopted at the Spring Council meeting, the EU's top decision-making forum.

ESU calls for ERASMUS flexibility as Commission report recommends cutting students' length of stay abroad

It's the Commission's flagship and arguably most successful education initiatives.  But new proposals from the European Commission for its ERASMUS Programme could have serious consequences for students who want to take advantage of the scheme in future.

In its 2008 evaluation of the Programme and its impact on higher education, the Commission finds that ERASMUS has had multiple positive effects; systemic, institutional and individual.  Key systemic improvements can be seen, for example, in terms of agenda setting, infrastructure and content on the Bologna Process, quality assurance, ECTS and qualifications frameworks.  At the institutional level, ERASMUS has resulted in improvements in high-level management, teaching and learning, research and student services.

Promoting international cooperation on HE with South East Asia
se asiaESU is lending its support to a second European Commission-funded project aimed at fostering greater international cooperation in higher education. Funded under the branch of the Erasmus Mundus Programme that is designed to enhance the attractiveness of European higher education, the ACCESS-ASEAN project is seeking to build a range of innovative and lasting relationships with HE institutions across South-East Asia.


Students centre on Prague for the 17th European Student Convention

ESC17They were more than 100 delegates from over 30 countries.   Representatives from the majority of ESU's member unions travelled to Prague last week for the 17th European Student Convention, held in the Czech Republic as an official event of its presidency of the European Union.  Focusing on student empowerment through participation at the national, continental and global level, the event brought delegates together for four days of debates, information exchange and learning through workshops and panel sessions with a distinguished selection of guests from the higher education field.  Prominent amongst the many highlights from the week were an opening session with Ondrej Liska, the Czech Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and panel discussions on the student movement with Martin Bojar, one of the leaders  of a defining moment in the movement's history: the Czech student protests of 1968.   This was followed by discussions on how student unions evaluate themselves and ensure quality internally as well as externally with an expert in quality assurance, Henrik Toft Jensen of the European University Association, and a keynote speech on solidarity and development cooperation with Nicolas Richards, Senior Coordinator for Education International's Solidarity and Development Unit. 

In This Issue
Bologna to 2020
Poor show at the Education Council
European Commission reports on Erasmus
Accessing Asia
Students hit Prague for ESC17
Time for democracy in Belarus
A new Project Officer for ESU
Upcoming ESU Events
6-8 March - Equity training for NUSes, Timisoara, Romania

2-4 April - Equity training for NUSes, Tallinn, Estonia

19-26 April - Bologna Seminar and Board Meeting 56, Brussels

12-14 June, Equity training for NUSes, Austria

Interesting bits from elsewhere
A new weblog platform has just been launched for mobile students across Europe.  Check it out at:

AEGEE (Association des Etats Generaux des Etudiants de l'Europe) is currently running a major campaign to encourage young people to vote in the European Parliament elections in June.  'Y Vote 2009' involves a series of 12 seminars taking place across Europe on the key issues that affect young people.  The results of these conventions will feed into a Youth Manifesto to be delivered to the next Parliament.

More information on

News from partners
Click here for the latest newsletter of the European Youth Forum

And you can read all the latest news from the European University Association here.

HE News in Brief
UK: Universities warn of stiff competition in recession

Cyprus: Belfast students aim to unite divided Nicosia

Europe: Effects of financial crisis vary

European Commission 2008 Study on the Impact of Erasmus on European Higher Education

European Commission: An updated strategic framework for cooperation on education and training

ESU in the Media
European Voice: Reaction to the lack of EU ministerial commitments in the Education Council

European Voice: Student anger at plan for university rankings

Europolitics: Reaction to European Council meeting

International Herald Tribune : Economic crisis opens EU borders for study

Coming up...
March - launch of ESU's manifesto for the European Parliament elections

April - launch of Bologna With Student Eyes 2009

28-29 April - Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process, Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

7 June - European Parliament elections
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Action for Belarus: Add your voice to bring democracy to Europe's last dictatorship

It's Europe's last remaining dictatorship where citizens are denied the basic fundamental rights and freedoms that the rest of us take for granted.  And once again, next month will see an outpouring of calls across for Europe in support of democracy for Belarus.

On the night of 18th-19th of March 2009, JEF (Young European Federalists) will, for the fourth time, organise a co-ordinated pan-European action in different cities across the continent to show support for the suppressed civil society and opposition movement in Belarus.  The date coincides with the country's last presidential elections in 2006. The action will consist of gagging statues in cities throughout Europe and the rest of the world that sends a symbolic message that the majority of Belarusians are currently denied the right to free speech. The 2009 Action will call on Europe to stand up for democracy in Belarus in defence of human rights. Signs such as "It's time for change... It's Time for a Free Belarus" - - will be hanged around the necks of the statues.

ESU has been working to support the student movement in Belarus for many years and is lending its voice to calls for democracy to be brought to the country.

Last year, more than 80 cities joined in the action.  This year, there will almost certainly be more.  To organise an action or to join one near you, please visit or e-mail [email protected]
Welcome to ESU's new Project Officer

The Romanian contingent at just got stronger.  In January, we welcomed Natalia Tarachiu, our new Project Officer, to the Secretariat team at ESU.  A long-time resident of Bucharest, Natalia graduated with a Bachelor's in Economics before starting off her career the most logical way - as an economist in both the private and local government sectors.  This was followed by a move into more project management roles where she gained 10 years of experience, firstly in an NGO environment and later in the consultancy sector. She therefore brings to ESU a wealth of professional experience, including extensive knowledge of European financial instruments and programmes, strong project management skills and experience of working in a multicultural environment with people from all across the world.  We are delighted to have Natalia with us, and are already putting her to good use as she gets to grips with ESU's myriad of projects, past, present and future.

You can contact Natalia at: [email protected]

European Students' Union
20 Rue De La Sablonnière
1000 Bruxelles

For more information contact:
Frances Aldson:[email protected]
Anita Liice:[email protected]

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