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Step forward to make EU education systems more accessible to non-EU students

Yesterday on 17th of November, the International Students’ Day, the trialogue between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council have reached an agreement regarding new EU rules of entry and residence for non-EU students. This directive will merge and replace two existing directives (one on students and one on researchers) and has been a subject of discussions and disagreements for the past years.

ESU has been contributing to the debate on this new directive since its early stages back in 2013. While the proposal from the Parliament was in line with our demands, some of the changes from the Council are worrying, as it was creating obstacles for non-EU students in accessing Higher Education and significantly limiting their free movement within the EU.

The new legislation 2013/0081(COD) will ensure that students have the right to stay at least 9 months after finishing their studies; the right to move within the EU during their stay; and the right to work at least 15 hours a week.

“It is quite symbolic that the agreement was reached during the International Students’ Day, which was focused on the freedom to study and the freedom of movement. We are happy that on exactly that date an agreement was finally reached to make our education systems more accessible to non-EU students” says Fernando Galán, ESU chairperson.

The European Students’ Union welcomes this agreement, as it is a slight improvement from the Council Proposal in March this year.  However, ESU is concerned that the final text has been watered down quite drastically, as the right to stay after finishing the studies was cut down by half (Commission proposed 12 months, and Parliament 18), the right to work has been reduced from 20 to 15 hours a week, or students’ families have been excluded (only researchers will be able to bring their families with them).

“The final agreement represents half of what we would have loved to see, as the proposals from the European Parliament were way more advanced in rights for non-EU students”, Fernando comments. “We are looking forward to the final text of the agreement in order to see how far the directive is going or if it is just a merge of the two previous ones with small additions” Fernando continues.

The agreement must now be approved by the Civil Liberties Committee and endorsed by the Parliament as a whole and the Council of Ministers. After the entry into force, member states will have 2 years to implement it, but we encourage them to do it as soon as possible.


Background information:

08/03/2015 – Students disappointed with the European Council’s proposal 

05/12/2014 – ESU Resolution of the Board Meeting 67 on visa directive 2004/114

28/02/2014 – ESU welcomes a European Parliament’s decision affecting non-EU students

27/03/2013 – ESU welcomes the European Commission’s push for student mobility 


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