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ESC-tension Project: why do we need a European Student Card

Assume that you are a student enrolled in a Higher Education Institution in your country. The HEI issues you a card that allows you access to the library, the canteen, and other services provided by the local community. The problem is that you frequently have to wait weeks to receive this card and occasionally are obliged to pay a fee if you lose it and need a replacement. Let’s imagine now that you enrol in the Erasmus programme, you go to a foreign university, and you will have a new card, but you still need to wait weeks to obtain it. Even if you enrol in a different university within the same nation, the same issues may arise. How much time, money, paper, and plastic do it cost to have other cards? Wouldn’t it be better to have a single card—digital or physical—valid for all European universities, that allows discounts and service access wherever the card is used, regardless of the HEI from which it was issued?

This is the aim of the European Student Card Initiative. As a crucial tool for establishing and realising the European Educational Area by 2025, the EU Commission made significant investments in creating the European Student Card (ESC). The ESC offers an efficient and reliable framework for student authentication, data exchange, and interoperability among EU Higher Education Institutions to provide access to students’ services and encourage mobility. However, the ESC is still being adopted slowly due to operational, financial and implementation challenges. That is why projects like ESC-tension can play a crucial role. The European Student Card Extension and Adoption Project aims to offer direction, coordination, and tools to make it easier for higher education institutions and service providers across Europe to adopt the European Students Card. Furthermore, the ESC-tension Project aims to promote the adoption and use of the European Student Card by creating a platform that will act as a national hub for HEIs and service providers interested in putting the ESC into practice. 

Through the project, the consortium – composed of seven partners (Fondazione ENDISU, EDUCatt, University of Malaga, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, European Campus Card Association and us, the European Students’ Union), developed several intellectual outputs:

  • ESC-tension operational platform:  a free, open-source platform which ensures access and ease of use of ESC evaluation and implementation tools to HEIs and SSPs in Europe. The platform provides technical, administrative, management, and operational resources to foster the implementation of the European Student Card.
  • HEIs Profiling and baseline Identification: a tool to profile each HEI as well as to allow it to better define concrete strategies and objectives in terms of the type of services to the student, available resources, expectations, goals, and requirements.
  • Card Issuance and Adoption Toolbox: the tools are used to fully understand the administrative and technological requirements of the ESC card and to perform an internal assessment to understand the level of readiness fully, identify gaps and points of strength and criticality as well as trace a roadmap for the adoption of the ESC itself.
  • ESC-compliant Student Services: it provides operational tools to measure the distance between the current situation of the HEIs and the complete adoption of the ESC.
  • Application for Service Providers: each service provider that addresses students identified through their ESC can apply on the ESC-tension platform. This way, the service will be included among those proposed to the students joining a mobility program. 

To conclude our multiannual work, the project launched the ESC-tension Weeks, a series of multiplier events throughout the EU to discuss and disseminate the project’s outcomes and debate future perspectives on the European Student Card and further benefits for students. We organised an event in Brussels on October 28th, bringing together stakeholders involved in the ESC but mostly the voice of students, who are the primary beneficiaries of such an instrument.

An instrument like the European Student Card, if uniformly adopted in the European Union, can be a step forward in the European Education Area. Most importantly, it can simplify and improve students’ lives. However, this should not mean that there is no room for further improvements: according to NTT Data, so far, only 9 European countries have issued the ESC, and just 1.55 million students (out of 20) benefit from it.

The ESC must be implemented uniformly; students should receive the same services regardless of where they have previously studied to prevent an unequal or “multi-speed” European Education Area. That is why we believe in the importance of projects like ESC-tension.


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