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Fighting Discrimination in Higher Education

May 6th-9th, London: ESIB will be holding a seminar on discrimination in Higher Education. ESIB’s third conference of the year focuses on a theme which is broader than just the scope of our curricula and higher education. Thanks to the Council of Europe’s All Different All Equal campaign, we have the opportunity to discuss discrimination and how to continue fighting it as student unions. It is a great opportunity to organise a seminar on such an important topic, a fundamental building block of the student movement and something that should be a top priority for Europe today.

Equality in its essence means respect for the individual: whether you are black or white, male or female, straight or gay, have a certain disablity or not, you are human and therefore enjoy certain unalienable rights. But in this respect equality also means respect for diversity: the basic reason we need to continue discussing and improving is because we are all different and equality is not something obvious. Only by cherishing our diversity, can we consider ourselves equal: this is the paradox of the word equality and the exact reason why we are organising this event under the umbrella of ‘All Different All Equal’ campaign.

Reaching equality has been a long fight with central moments in European history such as the French revolution,  women gaining voting rights before and after the first world war and the rise and fall of communism. But although the fight has been long and harsh at times, we are still a long way off a perfect world. The well known adage ‘we are all equal, but some are more equal than others’ applies today as much as in George Orwell’s time. The focus of European and international policies on excellence, brain gain and a stronger financial contribution from students, is a clear message that this adage still exists in today’s thinking. A quick glance at the demographic background of the student body shows the continuing disease of social reproduction which continues to affect our societies.

ESIB has again prioritised work on equality in 2007. With great efforts being made by the Equality working group as well as by the Gender Equality Committee, we can say we now do more than ever before. But already in the past ESIB has organised seminars and published many documents surrounding this topic, such as the seminar on equal access in 2003 in Bulgaria, the recent seminar on the social dimension in France, the No Means No campaign and a very high quality handbook on equality issues.   It clearly shows that equality is one of the cornerstones of the European student movement, and I hope it will continue to be so well into the future.


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