FINST Launch Conference

Event date - 02/05/2011
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FINST Launch Conference

“Financing Higher Education – Financing the Students’ Future”



Today nobody dares to doubt the value of higher education in our societies. However, the question whether it is a financial priority for governments in times of economic downturn remains under much of heat. The European Union has increased its focus on higher education as one of the top priorities for the next decade of European development, though has not yet been able to present a satisfactory solution to the ailments of educational financing in Europe. In the meantime, on the ground, the first ten years of our century have seen the amount of funding per student decrease in many countries, often for the first time in decades. The question how to do more with less rose up in the context of higher education financing forcing to rethink financing strategies with more pressure than ever.

Since the economic crisis hit in 2009, the use of public financing in education has been under constant scrutiny by both governments and institutions, but most changes in financing have come only with a delay in 2010 when governmental measures affected the access to higher education in nearly every European country.

It should be noted that the current status of financing of higher education is extremely different across the continent hence the valid comparison is difficult to conduct. However, statistics on the failure rate at the end of the first year being over 50%, mainly associated with high costs of study for students in certain countries, raise serious concern. While the strong tendency to stress inefficiency of higher education institutions, expansion of student numbers and growing needs of the societies might be used as an incentive to increase the private spending on higher education on the expense of public funding – the global trends quite often present a somewhat different approach. Be it the economic downturn, be it the societal situation, be it the political belief of the governors, in most countries the value of higher education as a national priority for welfare has decreased.

So what is prioritized and what remains in the shadows in the debate on financing of higher education? The seminar will thus aim at exploring topic to a great extent while at the same time consider if different approaches to the same processes make sense from the perspective of serving the needs of students. Where is the line between innovation and abuse of the system, fair and unjustifyable, effective and efficient? These and many more questions will hopefully challenge each and every participating.

The seminar is an opening event of the ESU project “Financing the Students’ Future” (FINST) which is organised with a contribution of the European Commission from under the Lifelong Learning Programme. The FINST project aims at increasing knowledge about higher education funding systems and their effects on students by providing an compendium overview for the use of national unions of students to influence the funding reforms debate on the national level. Further, the project will deliver policy recommendations that provide evidence-based input to the national and European level, especially ahead of the Bologna Process Ministerial Conference in Bucharest in 2012 and the European Commission’s new Modernisation Agenda linked to the strategic framework of the EU for education and training.

Hosted by Eesti Üliõpilaskondade Liit (EÜL) which is a federation of Estonian Student Unions that was founded in 1991 and is the main advocate and defender of students opinion and rights in Estonia, representing more than 60 000 students.



Monday, 2nd of May

09:30-10:00  Welcoming Words

Maris Mälzer (EÜL); Bert Vandenkendelaere (ESU)

10:00 -10:30 Keynote speech – Financing of higher education? What are we talking about?

10:30-11:00 BREAK

11:00-12:30 Parallel workshops

Is it really private versus public good or hybrid everywhere?  What are the arguments behind different points of view?

The workshop sessions will seek to explore the arguments on both sides of the table while at the same time introduce to the recent developments in the participants’ countries contexts. In addition, the rationale and structures applied in various situations will be discussed in order to identify most significant features of the different financing systems in place. Workshops are chaired by ESU representatives and alumni.


14:00-15:00 Panel 1 – Researchers opinion – who gets what and why?

The panel will look at various research activities carried regarding financing topic and the conclusions driven from them. Is there something in common and how it can feed to policy design?

15:00-15:45 Panel 2  –  Case study – United Kingdom

Presented by NUS UK president Aaron Porter

15:45-16:15 BREAK

16:15 -17:00 Panel 3 – Presentation of the outcomes from the workshop groups

17:00-17:30 ESU Board Meeting Session: presentations on Statement on Bologna Process and statement on mobility

17:30-18:45 ESU Board Meeting Session: Structures Evaluation I

18:45-19:45 DINNER

20:00-             Student Days Opening March in Tallinn, followed by optional social activities


Tuesday, 3rd of May

09:30-10:30 Panel 4 – Social dimension – somewhere between illusion and reality

The panel asks what will be the impact of the increased attention to the social dimension and widening participation in higher education and how it will shape the financing debate. Is it fair to claim that some forms of studies or some fields are worth significantly lower investment because of “little added value” to the society as a whole? What are the implications on students’ population and beyond.

10:30-11:00 BREAK

11:00-12:30 Speed dating

NUS’es/stakeholders sharing experience on how social support services function in their contexts with a particular focus on financial aid in national and institutional level (where applicable)

13:30-15:00 LUNCH

15:00-16:00 Panel 5 – Gender aspect in the funding debate

Panel will seek to look closer into this specific form of discrimination and the ways it applies to higher education setting. How gender relates with financing debate, what strategies are in place and what are the main challenges to overcome.

16:00-16:30 FemNet meeting / Male gender session

16:30-17:00 BREAK

17:00-18:00Board Meeting Session: Structures Evaluation II

19:30-21:30 GALA DINNER at KUMU Art Museum with International Student Identity Card Association (ISIC)


Wednesday, 4th of May

09:30-10:30 Debates – game or powerful tool? Show case

This house believes that our students’ top priority is acquisition of skills and not employability. 

Session aims at introducing participants to the professional debates and lobbying practices including basic rules, methods of argumentation, data selection, tricks and traps. The presentation is followed by the relevant showcase. (M.Romeris and Vilnius Universities debates team)

10:30-11:00 BREAK

11:00-12:30 Debates Exercise – First round

Work in four groups and preparation for the show case and development of lobbying strategies – This house believes that students ridden with debt makes society unsustainable.

12:30-14:00 LUNCH

14:00-15:15 Debates Exercise – Second round

15:15 -16:00 Panel 6 – Modernisation agenda and commodification – new trends versus old traditions?

Presented by Magnus Malnes (ESU)

16:00-16:30 BREAK

16:30-17:15 Working with different cultures. How and why is it important?

Presented by Elisabeth Gehrke (SFS Sweden)

17:15-18:30 Seminar conclusions followed by “Financing the Students Future” presentation – way forward (FinST Research Team)

18:30-19:30 Board Meeting Sessions: CIA and ESU Finances, Bologna Statement

19:30-20:30 DINNER


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