21.12.2011
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“Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched” – Merry Christmas from ESU!

Allan Päll, Chairperson European Students’ Union, looks back on the year 2011.

“If we were to sum up the last year, one could say that 2011 has been all about not counting the chickens before they are hatched. But, it has been a revolutionary year for sure. The European Students’ Union has been working hard throughout the whole year, but many of our projects and activities have been about preparing for the future, 2012.

With anticipation, we have witnessed drastic changes to the South of Europe and started our actions and plans for cooperation with post Arab Spring countries. Last Christmas, we were running a successful campaign against academic repression of students in Belarus. This Christmas, we are trying to make sure that before Belarus is accepted to join the European Higher Education Area, they will allow for academic freedom and crawl out of the black hole of Europe.

In other headlines, there have been many budget cuts in higher education in Europe. Foundations of Europe seem shaky with lots of talk coming from the EU and international institutions about the importance of investing into education for our future benefit as a society, but while seeing little corresponding action by governments.

More student mobility has certainly been an important theme this year. The EU is now agreeing with our demands to put significantly more money towards the goals of making sure that by 2020 every fifth graduate has had a learning experience abroad. But this process will now take around two more years to come to a conclusion. EU budget for exchange programmes is proposed to increase more than 70% from 2014.

Meanwhile, while we wait, student mobility could become of an economic imperative when young people and students move to find jobs when half of Europe has run out of them. Skyrocketing youth unemployment is prompting wide protests and is raising great political concerns. And indeed, the winding (political) debt crisis has become a status quo.

Even TIME magazine has named the person of the year to be a protester. Rightfully so! And this reflects also in our Christmas message, which for some (like students in Portugal are currently campaigning) will be a “black Christmas for higher education” (and its not that they were hoping for snow otherwise).

While it might be difficult to find positive notes from 2011, we should not forget the vibrant change happening at our very own higher education institutions. Reports about finding creative solutions are manifold and it seems that we really are entering an era of knowledge, where students and teachers, more than ever, innovate in teaching and learning.

Indeed, some say that we should not let a good crisis go to waste. That we should push for big changes in society. ESU will surely be spending even more time next year to straighten up the priorities of the ministers responsible for higher education and governments at large. We will consistently fight for more funding of higher education, better access and for respecting the student voice in society and academia alike.

Our membership will surely be even more active in advocating for sustainable and reasonable solutions that do see education as a key goal to develop in society. This year has posed many challenges and has kept us busy and although it seems that concessions are not enough, there is plenty of scope for change for the better. We will not count our chickens yet!

We would like to extend this short note as a thank you to all students this year that have actively voiced their views, their message. It can sometimes be bitter; or hopeful. They have also taken more action than ever before. We hope that the holiday season will bring at least everyone with some rest and new bright ideas for the New Year! Please, do take care and see you in 2012! Merry Christmas and a Happy 2012!”

The European Students’ Union office will be closed for holidays between 23 December and 2 January.

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