The Monthly Newsletter of the European Students' Union
July 2009
 Issue 15 - Students take to the global stage
Dear Friends,

It undoubtedly has an important role to play - the market and private sector have been shown to deliver multiple benefits in areas such as air transport, multimedia and communications and retail services, providing a level of choice and competition for consumers that enable them to select the best product for their requirements.

Some then argue that, given the successful track record of the market in this respect, it should be extended to other areas of daily life such as education.  After all, it is just a logical extension of a tried-and-tested approach.  If people gain from price reductions and product choice because of market forces and when buying a foreign holiday, surely they should and could benefit from the same choices with their educational provision.

This is where the market logic collides with fundamental human rights and entitlements.  There are several key differences between buying a foreign holiday and following an educational pathway that make the marketisation agenda fall down.  Buying a holiday abroad is optional - as much as we may like to think the opposite, it is a luxury - an addition to our daily lives rather than an essential necessity. And because it is an optional extra which we can choose to have or not, we expect to have to pay for it.  Having one simply makes our lives temporarily more enjoyable, rather than bringing any wider individual and societal benefits.  Failure to have one impacts on no-one but ourselves.

Education is another matter entirely.  Widely acknowledged as a basic human right, it is an entitlement and an essential pre-requisite for realising individual potential, citizenship, equal opportunities and creating a knowledgeable, sustainable and equitable society in which everyone can flourish.  It is therefore something that needs to be available to everyone, regardless of financial means, origin, background or situation.  The market does not work for basic human rights and entitlements, because it functions on an entirely different logic - of creating a good deal for optional extras that people can either choose to have, or choose not to have.  Education is not an optional extra, and marketisation in practice simply means a shift away from universal access and entitlement to limited access based on the ability to pay for the 'goods' in question.

For this reason, the recognition this month at the World Conference on Higher Education of HE as 'a public good and public responsibility' was a major breakthrough against a growing tide seeking to inject market forces into learning provision.  While such a statement at global level is an important statement of principle, the signs in Paris were that it's just another step forward in a much longer-term battle.  It's going to take a lot more work by ESU and other higher education actors before the marching tide seeking to marketise this 'public good' is forced into a permanent retreat. 

Until next month.


Editor - The Student Voice
ESU makes a global impact at the WCHE
People'At no time in history has it been more important to invest in higher education.'  This was the strong and unequivocal message emanating from global higher education leaders at the UNESCO World Conference held in Paris earlier this month.
In a clear illustration of the strength of the student voice, this statement is just one of a series of major step forwards made by the conference as a result of the work of ESU and student platforms across the world.

Full story...
Mobility figures up, but still far short of targets

2 million students have now been mobile under the Erasmus programme.  This was the celebratory news from the European Commission, released in a press release yesterday (30th July).  In the year 2007/8, 162,695 Erasmus students studied abroad, representing a 2.1% increase compared to 2006/7.  In a new addition to the programme, 20,002 students benefited from placement mobility to undertake a supported traineeship abroad, a number that the Commission says is set to expand in the coming years.  Mobility grants have also increased to an average of over 250 euros/month for both teacher and student placements.

While ESU welcomes these figures and the increased Erasmus programme budget under the enhanced Lifelong Learning Programme, the cold fact remains that across Europe, only 4% of students are able to benefit from Erasmus-supported mobility. 

Full story...
Numbers in HE up, but not enough

11% of EU public expenditure goes on education, and investment must be maintained even in the face of the current economic and financial crisis.  This was one of the key messages from a new report published last month by Eurydice, an agency of the European Commission.  Combining statistical data and qualitative information, the report provides a wide-ranging overview of recent trends and the organisation and functioning of European education systems.

One of the principle findings is that the number of people in higher education has risen consistently since 1998 to reach over 18 million, representing an increase of 15% in 8 years.  This means that one-third of all 20-22 year olds are now studying in higher education.  While this advancement seems significant at first sight, it is in fact insufficient to fulfil the objectives of the EU's Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs. 

Student expertise the key to quality assurance
It has been up-and-running for the last two years, but with the help of Council of Europe, ESU has just held the very first training session in Strasbourg for students keen to join our Students' Experts Pool and thereby play a key role in ensuring quality in institutions and quality assurance agencies around Europe.  22 national QA student experts from across Europe came together for 5 days of training to enable their participation in review panels at European level, and thus to facilitate the sustainable evolution of the pool.

Full story...
ESU visits IFMSA workshop on the Bologna Process
At the last board meeting (April 2009), ESU delegates welcomed the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) as an associate member. Medical students are all-too- often underrepresented in local and national student unions because it is common that their studies are separate from the rest of the university. This makes our new connection to IFMSA particularly important, due to its strong contacts with both national and local medical student associations.

Full story...
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In This Issue
Making a global imapct at the WCHE
Mobility figures up, but still far short of targets
Numbers in HE up, but not enough
Student expertise the key to quality assurance
IFMSA workshop
Upcoming ESU Events
15-18th October: 18th European Student Convention, Stockholm

22nd-29th November: Board Meeting 57, Krakow, Poland.

ESU in the Media
European Voice article on ECTS/DS labels

Global student union to be formed
HE News in Brief
European Commission: Erasmus reaches its 2 million students mark

OECD launches innovation drive

UK: An extra 10,000 university places

WCHE: Was the world conference a success?

Sec-Gen of the OECD: The new dynamics of higher education

Europe: Big boost to research spending

India: Call for massive overhaul of higher education

Algeria: New policy to curb violence on campus
Project news
ESU is a partner in the HEXTLEARN project, or Higher Education Exploring ICT use for Lifelong Learning. 

You can read all the latest news in the June/July newsletter here.

Interesting bits from elsewhere

Read all the latest news from the European University Association (EUA) here

Eurydice report: 'Key education data for Europe 2009'

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how to facilitate more and better opportunities for young people to study and train abroad. 

Click here to find out how you can express your views

European Students' Union
20 Rue de la Sablonnière
1000 Bruxelles

For more information contact:
Frances Aldson:[email protected]
Allan Pall:[email protected]

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