mobility – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 Position paper on Education /position-paper-on-education/ Thu, 13 Nov 2014 09:58:08 +0000 /?p=5557 Introduction

AEGEE-Europe is belonging to the group of European students’ non-governmental organisations. It represents 13 000 students in 40 countries in Europe. Its members are young people that are involved in the higher education institutions and therefore are the main beneficiaries of the education systems in Europe. AEGEE together with its members strives for equal and quality education in Europe that does not set additional barriers for students to study and cares about students’ educational needs. Therefore, it is relevant for AEGEE to take a position about higher education in Europe in order to bring student perspective to its advocacy processes. This position of AEGEE-Europe covers three areas of international aspect of higher education in Europe. First, existence of European mobility programmes for students and their perspective on them. Second, the implementation of the Bologna process in various parts of Europe. Third, the role of international youth organisations in higher education. These three fields are influencing members of AEGEE-Europe in their everyday student lives. It is, thus, of high importance to present their opinion about these topics. Moreover, AEGEE developed many successful higher education projects in the past and had an experience of tackling the topic of education and mobility[1]. This position is based on an internal survey of AEGEE-Europe. It was launched at the beginning of September 2014 and every AEGEE member had an opportunity to contribute to it. Altogether, there were 168 valid answers. Average age of respondents was 23.4 years and average mark given to the importance of education was 4.6[2]. Moreover, 47 % of respondents claimed that they have conducted their studies in at least two countries. The survey consisted of combination of closed and open questions. Simple statistics and content analysis were used as methodological tools during data analysis of the responses. Based on the survey results from AEGEE members, we drafted three recommendations related to European mobility programmes, the Bologna process and the role of youth organisations in Higher Education. These recommendations serve as a basis for advocacy work of AEGEE in the field of Education once they are approved by the General Assembly of AEGEE-Europe.

Context

The emphasis on ‘a knowledge-based economy’ presented in the Strategy of Lisbon[3] gives the education policy a big role to play in order to achieve global competitiveness and Education has been heavily promoted as a means to prevent the growing unemployment as a result of the present financial and economic crisis. Those different elements have characterised the development of a European agenda for education policy and the Education and Training 2020 strategy, which has as one of its objectives to “make lifelong learning and mobility a reality”[4]. With the signing of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, both EU and non-EU Member States committed themselves to coordinate education policies and pursue specific common objectives. They aimed at creating a European Area of Higher Education, in which the diversity of the Education system is conserved, but tools are implemented to ease the recognition of diplomas/qualifications between countries. AEGEE welcomes the improvements which have already been implemented, but regrets that some barriers remain. It is important to ensure mobility in the frame of the studies to be enjoyed fully by all young Europeans. Implementation of the Bologna process has gone further. The creation and implementation of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) changed the face of higher education in Europe. Last EHEA Ministerial Conference, organised in Bucharest in 2002, set clear goals to be achieved – widening access to higher education, quality assurance, and recognition of foreign degrees together with student-oriented perspective[5]. It is true that in the past years, the mobility experience through the academic cursus has become an increasingly valued element in the students’ path. Several studies carried out by youth organisations and completed by EU publications, stress the positive impact of mobility in terms of skills development, both on personal and professional level. Moreover, AEGEE recently carried out a research called Erasmus Voting Assessment that proves that the experience of Erasmus students living in another EU country has a positive impact on the voting behaviour of young people in European elections. The new EU mobility programme Erasmus+ will undoubtedly enable a growing number of young students to carry out part of their studies in another EU country, and we welcome the 19 billion Euros budget allocated, and the objective of 3 million higher education and vocational training students to enjoy mobility programmes.

Data analysis

Since the survey covered three topics of the international dimension of higher education in Europe, the structure of the analysis follows the same line.

Topic: Mobility programmes in Europe

According to results of the survey, AEGEE members are aware of the Erasmus mobility programme (the number is close to 98 %). As a second comes Leonardo da Vinci mobility programme with 57 % of respondents being aware of the programme. Other mobility programmes like Comenius, Grundtvig, Jean Monnet or CEEPUS are recognised by less than 30 % of AEGEE members. 58 % of respondents feel to be personally encouraged to go on mobility programme by their home university in comparison with 31 % that do not. And when it comes to information about different mobility programmes, 61 % of respondents are feeling informed about their possibilities in comparison with 34 % that do not. Most of the information AEGEE members get from their friends (51 %). As a second comes information channel from university office (43 %) and then information from students NGOs (36 %). 43 % of respondents participated in mobility programmes, majority of them through the Erasmus programme (56 out of 72 respondents). Main purpose of the mobility was mostly study exchange. 70 % of the cases got their academic work recognised by their home university, but 30 % did not. In 90 % of cases there was a Learning agreement or other learning objectives signed before the mobility took place. A slight majority of respondents (55 %) found it easy to access the mobility programmes in comparison with 42 % that did not. Among the challenges for accessing mobility programmes, academic, administrational and financial obstacles were equally represented (about 25 % of responses). That means that AEGEE members find it hard to access mobility because of insufficient recognition of credits, slow processes of signing a Learning Agreement, too much paperwork before mobility, insufficient financial support and/or late payments. AEGEE members emphasise problems with communication between students and their universities or students and teachers about mobility programmes, recognition of credits, bureaucratic processes and lack of options to go on mobility.

Topic: Bologna Process

75 % of respondents are aware of the Bologna process and a majority of them claim that their universities are implementing the scheme of bachelor – master – doctoral degree. However, a slight majority of respondents (57 %) consider the Bologna process as a positive development, while 20 % of the respondents have a negative opinion and 23 % have a neutral one[6].

Topic: Role of international youth organisations in higher education

AEGEE locals as international youth organisations are cooperating with universities in 66 % of the cases and only 12 % is not. In two third of the cases, AEGEE members use skills which they acquired in AEGEE during their studies at higher educational institutions. Only 9 % claim otherwise. 26 % of respondents claim that they have the opportunity to get ECTS[7] credits outside of their formal education. Those who do not have this opportunity or do not know about it make up 57 % of the respondents. On the other hand, 57 % of the respondents would argue that their skills learnt in international youth organisation should be recognised by Higher Education institutions. Only 17 % of respondents would not argue so.

Recommendations

Topic: Mobility programmes in Europe

  1. Improve communication about mobility programmes at universities

Almost 50% of the respondents say that they have heard about a mobility programme through friends. This answer sheds light on the importance of the peer group in the level of information, and can raise concerns regarding the information level of young people with fewer opportunities, who might not benefit from this peer influence. Therefore, we recommend the European Commission, and especially the information providers (such as Eurodesk, European Youth Portal), but also the Higher Education Institutions, to increase the promotion of all existing mobility schemes, to provide students with all the information needed to make choices regarding their studying path.

  1. Increase recognition of academic work after mobility took place

The successful implementation of the ECTS has drastically facilitated learner mobility, making it possible to transfer and recognise credits gained in another institution. The Erasmus scheme has brought huge improvements in terms of automatic recognition, thanks to the recognition tools such as the Learning Agreement, the Transcript of Records together with the Recognition Document in the case of mobility for studies. However, the current situation is still far from perfect. This can be done by strengthening the cooperation between universities and full implementation of ECTS credit framework throughout European Higher Education institutions.

  1. Equal access to mobility programmes

Equal opportunities to access mobility programmes is not a reality  so far. Different funding schemes dependent on national contexts create additional barriers for inclusion of some young people who are not able to cover the costs of their mobility. AEGEE believes that all EU regions should provide a minimum of additional support to students, taking into account not only their social situation, but also the country in which they will carry out their studies. Additionally, AEGEE with its membership also outside the European Union strongly supports the opening of mobility programmes to non-EU citizens. Our members outside the borders of the EU face even more exclusion, only on the arbitrary basis of their origin and nationality.

Topic: Bologna Process

  1. Improve the implementation of Bologna process

AEGEE welcomes the idea of creating a common European Higher Education Area. On the other hand, there is still room for improvement. Regarding implementation of Bologna process AEGEE urges to fully implement the three-cycle (bachelor – master – doctoral) of studies and the ECTS framework in . These aspects are still not fully implemented, as our members pointed out in the survey, and therefore they pose obstacles to student mobility in Europe. Moreover, AEGEE advocates for a stronger link between the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) and the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. EQAR was introduced in 2012 and still does not cover all countries participating in the Bologna Process[8]. Having the same quality indicators of higher education institutions are very important for the completion of EHEA. Last but not least, student participation in the institutional governance of universities needs to be improved. AEGEE welcomes the inclusion of student stakeholders in the process of the Bologna process implementation. What is missing, however, is a stronger emphasis on including students in the institutional matters of their home universities. Students should have a stronger say in the financial issues and staff policies of their universities. This is not the case all around EHEA.

Topic: Role of international youth organisations in higher education

  1. Strengthen the link between international youth organisations and higher education institutions

AEGEE believes that the involvement of students in youth organisations has a very positive impact on the students’ success in Higher Education. Indeed, apart from the skills that young people develop and can use in their studies[9], youth organisations’ involvement also tends to develop attitudes such as persistence, flexibility as well as creativity, which also help students within the frame of their studies. Therefore, AEGEE asks Higher Education Institutions to cooperate further with students’ organisations, and to acknowledge their positive role on the students’ development, through additional support, funding and ECTS credits recognition.

  1. Increase the possibility to get ECTS credits outside of formal education

AEGEE strongly believes in the principles of Lifelong Learning and wants to emphasise the important role of civil society when it comes to designing and implementing lifelong learning strategies.  Moreover, as mentioned in the Communication from the European Commission  ‘Rethinking Education’[10],  AEGEE agrees that flexible learning pathways need to be recognised, namely that the Higher Education Institutions are not the only space where young people can acquire knowledge and competences, and that it is important to better recognise Learning outside Formal Education.

About AEGEE

AEGEE (Association des États Généraux des Étudiants de l’Europe) is one of Europe’s biggest interdisciplinary student organisations. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines. Founded in 1985 in Paris, today AEGEE has grown to a Network of 13000 friends, present in 200 cities in 40 countries all over Europe. AEGEE puts the idea of a unified Europe into practice. Operating without a national level, AEGEE brings 13000 students directly in touch with each other.  


[1] For example projects like Euducation for Democracy or EURECA or recently Erasmus Voting Assessment.
[2] Mark 5 was the highest one.
[3] European Commission. Accessed on October 15, 2014. Online http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/europe-2020-in-a-nutshell/targets/index_en.htm
[4] European Commission. Accessed on 13.10.2014, Online http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/strategic-framework/index_en.htm
[5] EHEA Bucharest Communique 2002. Accessed on 13.10.2014. Online http://www.ehea.info/Uploads/(1)/Bucharest%20Communique%202012(1).pdf
[6] This data was analysed by content analysis where positive feelings were linked with words “like”, “good”, “useful” or “support”, negative feelings with words like “don’t like”, “useless” or “bad” and neutral feelings were assigned to responses that did not contain any of these normative words.
[7] European Credit Transfer System.
[8] Bologna Process Implementation Report. 2012. Accessed on 14.10.2014. Online http://www.ehea.info/Uploads/(1)/Bologna%20Process%20Implementation%20Report.pdf
[9] Such as presentation skills, teamwork, time management or communication skills.
[10] European Commission. Accessed on 13.10.2014. Online http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52012DC0669&from=EN

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Fences are not made of sausage abroad! /fences-are-not-made-of-sausage-abroad/ Tue, 06 May 2014 17:41:40 +0000 /?p=5134

by Monica Nica

A last minute change introduced a detour in our route between Zagreb and Belgrade. The name of this fortunate twist is Pécs, in Hungary. Although we only spent 17 hours in the European Capital of Culture of 2010, they were filled to the brim both with challenging debates and soaking up some local traditions.

Even though they sometimes needed a push to take the discussion forward, the Hungarian participants had fruitful and interesting debates on all three questions they received: What are the advantages/disadvantages of mobility? Do you imagine yourself working in another country? What is the best way to defend your interests as a young person?

On the mobility matter, the advantages brought up were similar to what was mentioned during the discussions we had with youths from other locations: job/education opportunities, cultural sensitivity, self-improvement, breaking down stereotypes, to cite just a few. In the disadvantages corner, one point stood out among the usually mentioned ones: ‘losing your national identity’. What Leila Abbas meant with it was the fear of one having to relinquish his/her own culture, the fear of a ‘European melting pot’ which would erase the existing cultural differences. A strong attachment to national identity was present throughout the debates on all three questions, although twined with a criticism of the Hungarian government to the same intensity, if not even greater.

DSC01681 (1)Working in another country was regarded by most participants as a short term option. Both types of arguments – pro and against working abroad – boiled down to how despite the dissatisfaction with many things, it is better to live and work in Hungary. For them, a good reason to work abroad is to gain experience which can be later used back in one’s native country. An even more powerful expression of their national attachment came in the form of a reason against working abroad: ‘leaving your country is a kind of selfishness’. Zoltán Bagoly mentioned one Hungarian saying which can help to better understand how they feel about ‘abroad’: in other countries ‘fences are not made of sausages’, in a literal translation. Considering how kolbász (sausage) is one of the staples of Hungarian gastronomic culture, one can easily grasp why sausage fences are regarded as the crest of well-being. Going beyond the tastiness of the aphorism, what Zoltán was trying to convey with it is that they think they have an undistorted view of how things are abroad. Despite the situation in Hungary not being satisfactory, abroad it is not much better. Someone said, to the approval of the rest: ‘as a nation we are too proud to confess that we can learn from other nations’.

The literature on youth participation says that young people prefer alternative channels of action to influence decision-makers. The Hungarian youths confirmed this when they mentioned the best ways to defend their interests: peaceful protests, student organisations and social media campaigns. Although they also brought up establishing relationships with officials, most of the options represent new forms of engaging with the political. When asked why they did not even consider engaging with formal politics they said it is because politics in Hungary is a realm of corruption. Politicians are very protective of their seats and joining their ranks would entail becoming like them.

Knowing perfectly well the feeling of nausea when thinking about how politics is carried out in my own country I could comprehend their stance. Time and the European Union’s influence were two of the cures prescribed by the participants to alleviate the state of affairs in the national political arena. Given that their results are slow and unreliable, I further asked them what can we do now to meaningfully influence policy-making if engaging with formal politics is not a viable option?

A bottom-up approach still remained the preferred course of action. Associations like AEGEE, they said, have an important role, especially through the patronage which alumni can provide to the initiatives of current members.

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Is youth mobility socially mobile? /is-youth-mobility-socially-mobile/ Fri, 25 Apr 2014 00:35:46 +0000 /?p=5074 by Monica Nica

Heading to Naples we were hoping that the sunny weather we had experienced up to that moment would get even better. Instead, rain and clouds insisted to tag along with us through the two days we spent there. But the outside chilliness was counteracted by the warmth with which Nicola and his family welcomed us in their home. His mother not only treated us with a delicious traditional Easter dinner, but also with some interesting thoughts on the youth’s situation nowadays. For example, something that worries her is the fact that young people do not consider family and community ties as an important piece of the puzzle called life.

During the event, although we started the presentation on the topic of youth mobility, the conversation quickly went far beyond it as most participants were knowledgeable in the area. We touched upon issues of identity, the future young people envision for the EU, the moral values defining society today, and equal opportunities for youths.

We have already travelled 4000 km, visited 5 cities, met and discussed with almost 100 hundred people, and they unanimously agreed upon one thing: travelling is great! Everyone should travel, everyone should meet people from other countries, and everyone should experience other cultures. Many young people said that after returning from yet another trip they feel different relative to their friends who stay at home, they feel they know more, they feel they can do more. As I travelled a little bit myself during the past 3 years, I can say one thing: travelling is addictive! Once you start, you can hardly stop. There is always a new place to discover and interesting people to meet.

DSC01189If only everyone could indeed profit from all the advantages of travelling: independence, self-confidence, better language skills, adaptability, and inter-cultural communication abilities among others. The main recurrent reason for not travelling given by the young people we talked with was unsurprisingly related to the financial situation. Most simply cannot afford it.

Since my travelling has all the time been connected with something educational or professional, I had some kind of scholarship, but there were always expenses which I had to cover myself. If it weren’t for my parents and friends helping me out with that part, I wouldn’t have been able to travel anywhere. Even when all the expenses were covered by the organisers of the conference, the procedure usually involved a reimbursement. So there’s no such thing as free travelling, which means that the majority of young people can’t enjoy the benefits of it.

Mr. Luciano Griffo from Europe Direct in Napoli said that the EU mobility programmes are very good and that all young people should participate in them. At the same time, when asked about the real availability of these programmes for all youths, he admitted that they indeed represent opportunities mainly for university students. And the majority of university students come from middle and upper-middle classes.

DSC01174Without the support of family or friends, it can be very hard or even impossible to rely solely on the grants offered through the various mobility programmes. Even in AEGEE members have to pay in order to avail themselves of the wonderful travelling opportunities highly praised by everyone we have talked with.

Unfortunately those who can’t afford it are the ones who need it the most. The active youths already possess the skills and resources necessary for political participation. If decision-makers want all young people to be active citizens they need to offer everyone the tools necessary to address the barriers for participation in terms of skills, language, knowledge and ethos. Studies show that the more socially excluded young people are, the less they participate. But if given a good social condition, they are willing to exercise their formal rights. It might seem like an enormous task to undertake, but why not start with making the mobility programmes truly available for every young person, irrelevant of their social condition.

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AEGEE-Europe celebrates visa-free travel for Moldovan citizens /aegee-europe-celebrates-visa-free-travel-for-moldovan-citizens/ Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:25:26 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1008 Promotion of youth mobility and related programs plays a significant role in the current policy of AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum. The decision of the Council of the European Union on April 3rd, granting Moldova with a visa-free travel regime, brought on the hope that further developments in this sphere are to come shortly for other members of the Eastern Partnership program of the European Union.

Throughout its activities, AEGEE-Europe has always proved that Europe can be a border-less territory where democracy, respect for human rights and freedom are treated on equal terms. In regards to the decision made by the Council, we would like to asseverate that freedom of movement is an essential right that every European citizen should be granted with. Moreover, we believe it should not apply only to residents of the European Union. Within the mentioned framework, our emphasis is deservedly put on Moldova, the first Eastern Partnership country which has been given a chance to move forward with the integration processes.

The visa-free access to the Schengen area for Moldovan citizens with biometric passports is a result of the visa liberalisation dialogue between the European Union and Moldova initiated in 2010. Since then, the country has successfully implemented many reforms in areas such as the strengthening of the rule of law, combating organised crime, corruption, illegal migration and improving the administrative capacity in border control and security of documents. Although this meaningful sign of the European solidarity is highly welcomed by our association, we still assume all the Eastern Partnership countries as the integral parts of the European Community with a right to well-managed and secure mobility.

AEGEE-Europe has put an effort on the integration of the countries from the Eastern Partnership region in the recent years. First, highlighting the relevance of  the region in our Strategic Plan 2011-14 (Focus Area “Bridging Europe”); and second, through AEGEE’s own Eastern Partnership project, which has been active for three years with great success, and which is starting now its second cycle with a new team and updated objectives.

 

Written by Adrian Browarczyk,
Project Manager of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe

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Europe on Track 2: Mobility and EUrope /europe-on-track-2-mobility-and-europe/ Wed, 01 Jan 2014 16:38:34 +0000 /?p=4107 Following the successful achievements of the first edition of the project, Europe on Track 2 is also aiming to tackle issues that are of great concern for young people, giving them the chance to speak up for their needs, demands and express their proposals for changes. Only this time, a stronger emphasis will be put on encouraging young people to take action and become actors in the construction of “the Europe we want for our future!”

The choice of the two main topics heavily depended on aligning the thematics with AEGEE’s mission of empowering young people across the European continent and providing them with information on the programmes and possibilities being part of the European Union offers them. Hence Europe on Track 2 is going to put Mobility and EUrope in the focus of its interactive workshops, sessions and discussions during the whole trip of the six travelling ambassadors.

Download the project dossier and read more about the concept and the realization of the project!

Europe on Track 2 – Dossier

 

 

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