January 2009
 Issue 9
Dear Friends,

A very Happy New Year to all of you!  2009 is only three weeks old, and already ESU has hit the ground running.  As usual, a change in EU Presidency means a whole new set of policy priorities and key decision-makers to get to grips with, while new projects are taking off in every direction.  Planning and strategies are the words of the moment as we gear ourselves up for the Bologna Ministerial Conference in the Spring, preceded by our Board Meeting in Brussels, shortly followed by the European Parliament elections where we are keen to garner support for higher education support from the next generation of MEPs.  This is in addition to major new projects such as the snazzily-entitled ESCBI project, centred around increasing the student contribution to the implementation of the Bologna Process reforms. The first six months of 2009 in particular are going to be critical times for students and the higher education section alike due to the amount of activity taking place at the European level, and we're going to have to our wits about us to keep up with it all. 
Czechs take charge of the EU
Czech PresidencyThe Czechs are at the helm!  This month has seen Prime Minister M. Topolánek and co. take over the Presidency of the EU from the French under the banner of a 'Europe without barriers'.  At a meeting in Prague on 6th January, the Prime Minister and his deputy launched the official work programme for the next six months, highlighting their priorities as the three 'E's':  Economy, Energy and Europe in the world.   While it is sad, but unsurprising, that education is not one of the three priority 'E's, this Presidency like any other will be steering Europe's education policy over the coming months. So what lies in store for higher education under the Czechs?  Will it be 'more of the same' or might there be a shift in emphasis?  Time to take a look at what is being promised on paper...

Students suffering from HE shutdown in Malta
Malta protestsCaught in the crossfire.  That is the situation being endured by students in Malta who, over the last 7 months, have had their university education majorly disrupted by a dispute in which they are playing no part.  Instead, they have found themselves to be a pawn in an ongoing battle between the teachers' workers union (UMASA) and the Maltese Government.  In May 2008 when the dispute started, UMASA issued a directive to all its members asking them to withhold the results of final examinations and assessments in June, which was followed by a 1 day lecturers' strike in September 2008.  Malta's National Union of Students, KSU, has been working tirelessly to mediate the dispute between the teachers' union and the Maltese Government so as to protect and uphold the rights of Maltese students to a high quality education.   With the negotiations currently at a standstill, Malta's student population is still working with the prospect of further disruption to their learning hanging over them.
In This Issue
Czechs at the helm
HE shutdown in Malta
Students & Bologna
Assessing the French Presidency
Sign up for mobility
Capacity building in Kosovo
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Making student voices heard in the Bologna Process

BolognaProgress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.  That is a summary of the implementation of the Bologna Process, the single most significant reform of higher education across the whole of Europe.  To aid the implementation process and to ensure that student voices are fully represented within it, ESU is launching a new project with the support of the Commission's Education and Culture Directorate.  ESCBI, or 'Enhancing the Student Contribution to Bologna Implementation', will be delivered over the next two years in partnership with several national unions of students (NUSes), OBESSU (Organising Bureau of School Student Unions) and the University of Ljubljana. 
The project will seek to address the fact that, while the Bologna Process has had a positive impact on the higher education systems across Europe with systems becoming more aligned, qualitative and attractive to foreign students, studies have found a tendency towards an 'ŕ la carte' and inconsistent approach to implementation in some countries.  Equally, it has been revealed that the student experience on the ground at universities across Europe has not changed is often failing to match the progress highlighted on paper at high-level meetings. 

HE under the French: Assessing the second EU Presidency of 2008
French PresidencySix months of the French Presidency drew to a close at the end of December, and with it a very hectic period of meetings and conferences for ESU staff.  But what was the outcome of all this frenetic activity in terms of higher education policy at the European level?  Were there some real achievements, or rather a lot of talk and little action?
There are a lot of positives to be drawn from the French tenure at the top of the EU.  Firstly, ESU would like to express it sincere gratitude for the substantial support received for organising the 'Let's Go!' mobility campaign validation conference in Lille, which rounded off a year of high-level work on student and staff mobility across Europe.  Secondly, the French Presidency has been a pioneer in opening the debates of education decision-makers to students by inviting ESU representatives to attend the informal meeting of ministers in charge of education and higher education in Bordeaux. This initiative demonstrated a spirit of openness and inclusion that was deeply appreciated.

The support received for the Lille mobility conference reflected the high priority given to mobility as an issue during the French Presidency.  While we do not share one of the main conclusions of the Nancy mobility conference "Europe of Higher Education: a mobility zone to strengthen" that a key mobility obstacle is lack of motivation on the part of students, we applaud the increased investment that was made in various mobility programmes and the commitments made at the Bordeaux conference.   Equally impressive was the high-level mobility target which France has set for itself of 20% mobility by 2020. This is precisely the target that ESU is campaigning for at European level through the "Let's go!" project, and setting an example in this manner should serve to encourage other Bologna Process countries to follow suit. We were also pleased by the French Presidency's work on lifelong learning, which included several good initiatives such as asking the European Universities Association (EUA) to draft a Lifelong Learning Charter, and calling on Member State Governments to get more involved with this area of work.


Prepare to be empowered : ESC 17 is coming !

In keeping with the tradition of holding European Student Conventions in the country at the helm of the EU Presidency, ESU, its member organisations and other student and youth representatives will converge on the Czech capital of Prague for ESC 17 in February.  With a theme of 'student empowerment through participation at the national, continental and global level', the event will consist a wide range of sessions designed to support, strengthen and build the capacity of the student movement across Europe and beyond.  Attention will focus on analysing the recent history of the student movement and appraising its strengths and key challenges, while a series of working groups will examine in detail gender and wider equality issues, knowledge transfer, student participation, capacity building, international cooperation, student unions and the environment, political lobbying and the financing of student unions.  There will also been a strong emphasis on preparing for student participation and activism around the Bologna Process and the Leuven Ministerial Conference in Spring 2009.
With so many skills and strengths within ESU and its constituent organisations, ESC 17 will represent an invaluable opportunity to share learning, achievements and lessons, and to benefit from the diversity and dynamism inherent in the European student's movement.
Add your voice to make mobility a reality for all!

Do you believe that mobility should be a reality for all students and staff across Europe?  Do you want to help us make this message heard loud and clear at the Bologna Ministerial Conference in Belgium this Spring?  If so, all you need to do is simply add your signature to our Mobility Petition.

Please, help us to send the strongest possible message to Europe's education ministers.  Mobility is not only good for the individuals concerned, but for society as a whole due to the sharing of skills and experience across borders which it involves.

Add your voice to our campaign now!  Many thanks.
Capacity building in Kosovo

As part of its continued commitment to student development in the Balkans, ESU made a special trip to Kosovo in December to train students at two of the country's top universities.  At the invitation of Dutch NGO SPARK, a member of ESU's Student Union Development Committee (SUDC) spent several days with students at both the University of Mitrovica and the University of Pristina training students on a number of the key higher education issues at European level.  This included a special focus on the Bologna Process, academic mobility in general and the specifics of the 'Let's Go' campaign in particular.  The training session was the first in a series that will continue right through 2009, with an emphasis on barriers to academic mobility, solutions to these problems and campaign techniques that can be used.  There are a number of important structural issues that need to be addressed - students are represented through student parliaments, but these lack autonomy, as well as any kind of gender equality strategy, and do not cooperate with any of the private universities.  Nevertheless, the future looks promising.  'Students in Kosovo are motivated to improve their situation, ' notes Jens Jungblut from the SUDC who was responsible for delivering the training, 'And although there are still issues to be worked on, they are on the right path.  If they can maintain their level of dedication, they will be able to solve a lot of the problems facing students in Kosovo today.'
European Students' Union
20 Rue De La Sablonničre
1000 Bruxelles

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

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