ZAGREB – An international strategy for higher education in Europe needs to support a balanced mobility inside and outside the European Union, define the role of institutions clearly and recognise higher education as an opportunity for cooperation, development and advancing democratic processes.
The 47 national unions of students that are members of the European Students’ Union (ESU) have adopted a statement where they welcome the European Commission’s recent Communication on European Higher Education in the World. Although ESU is committed to support the implementation of a strategy for internationalisation in Europe, it has also defined key policy areas that can be improved, including the ones mentioned above.
ESU believes that international students should be treated the same as domestic students, as they improve the quality of education. More importantly, they should never be treated as a source of revenue. Student support systems must be made available to international students, regardless of their duration of stay. Scholarships should also be offered to students coming from non-EU countries, especially those arriving from countries with insufficient funds for higher education. Non-EU students should also have the opportunity to stay for long-term mobility programmes and to be employed in their hosting countries, but barriers to granting visas to mobile students must be removed.
ESU also thinks that more attention must be given to recognition mechanisms in higher education. Extra assistance should be given to those countries of the European Higher Education Area that still experience problems in implementing policies, such as the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). Additionally, ESU calls for a debate on the establishment of minimum standards in the implementation of the Bologna Process action lines. However, ESU supports the development of transnational joint degrees but believes that quality assurance agencies should be involved in that work.
Mobility as a right
The statement underlines the students’ view of mobility as a right and calls for more ambitious targets from the European Commission in that respect. It must be clearer and more consistent how higher education institutions approach international students. ESU appreciates that the European Commission has taken some of the views of students into account in developing a policy for the internationalisation of higher education and emphasises the role of students as key stakeholders in that process.
A full version of the statement can be downloaded 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.