More support for international students needed - European Students' Union
The European Students' Union (ESU) is the umbrella organisation of 45 National Unions of Students (NUS) from 39 countries. Source: Shutterstock

Universities and governments must do better in supporting international students, said the European Students’ Union (ESU) in its 2019 policy document.

From visas and permits to extra tuition fees imposed, the current framework for international students does not promote access to education, according to the document by the group representing 45 National Unions of Students from 39 countries.

Some higher education institutions use mobility as a means for “promoting themselves in a global competition, or making a profit of international students,” notes the report.

“The purposes of mobility should be the improvement of education quality by increasing international
outlook and circulating knowledge, as well as building intercultural understanding, independence,
and transversal skills in students.”

The ESU provides a list of recommendations for better internationalisation and learning mobility. This includes financial support to be offered at all education levels and cycles, and for the quality of learning in these mobilities to be properly ensured. International study shouldn’t be a privilege for the financially well-off, not should money be the number one deterrent for students to travel abroad for study.

It called for sufficient grants to cover living costs and emergency travel, transport subsidies and tuition-free language courses, as well as asking that international students be afforded the same tuition fees, regardless of EU citizenship status.

As for the Erasmus+ programme, “targeted grants should be offered to students from underrepresented groups to widen participation” and “adjusted to cover the study and living costs of the local area of destination”.

Bureaucracy and inconsistency were identified as barriers for students to attain visas, residency permits and work authorisations, the group also identified. It recommended abolishing fees on student visas and permits.

Everyone should have equal access to study in Europe’s top universities in Europe. Source: Tolga Olken/AFP

“Free movement must be ensured for students, who undertake stays for the purpose of study or
educational training, for teachers, staff and researchers.

“All costs for students related to visa procedures, such as travelling to embassies, documents preparation, translations costs, financial statements obligations, proofs of savings for the entire period of stay and finally the visa fee, are all negatively affecting study accessibility. ESU calls for fees on student visas and permits to be abolished,” reads the report.

The group also called for “transparent and accessible” online information for international students t regarding the accessibility of institutions and student housing.

Established in 1982, the ESU represents almost 20 million students in Europe and promotes their educational, social, economic and cultural interests towards all relevant bodies. It’s the only European student platform to conduct training, seminars, research and partnership projects, and produces a range of publications for students, policy-makers and higher education professionals.

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