SFS International Committée (Komit) spent the last weekend in Spain attending two conferences on the international aspects of higher education! The 14th to 15th of September we attended the European University Alliance Forum II in Barcelona, and then European Student’s Convention (ESC) in Zaragoza between the 15th to 18th of September. It should be noted that these two events are not usually related, but since Spain now holds the presidency over the Council of the European Union, both events were arranged in Spain and at the beginning of the six-month presidency period.
European University Alliance Forum II
The European University Alliance Forum is a forum for ministries for higher education and research, alliance representatives, stakeholders and student representatives to meet and discuss different matters related to the alliances of the European Universities. The European University Alliances was initiated in 2017 with the aim to deepen the collaboration between universities in Europe through interdisciplinary approaches to societal challenges. There are in total 19 Swedish universities that take part in an alliance.
This was the second time the forum was held. The first time it was arranged, only two student representatives were able to join, while now no less than 20 student representatives attended. Emma Svensson from Komit attended the Forum.
European student representatives at European University Alliance Forum II
On the agenda were mostly panel discussions related to the social dimension in the alliances, future funding of the alliances and different forms of quality assurance for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Even though the student voice was central to the event, the student voice was only represented in one of the many panel discussions. The panel discussion was fruitful, where European Students Union (ESU)’s vice president Tanguy Guibert shed light on the importance of democratically elected student representatives that are treated equally to other parties in the alliances. It gave student representatives an opportunity to discuss with other student representatives on matters such as social dimension within the alliances and student participation.
Panel on student representation in EUI. Tanguj Guibert, Vice president of ESU, to the right.
But it is also a great misfortune that the student representatives were not included in the other discussions. The student perspective was rather neglected in the discussions regarding more strategic questions such as funding, degree labels and monitoring. Such matters should not be lacking a student perspective!
However, the event gave a great opportunity for SFS to talk to different actors within the European University Alliances on the main challenges in relation to student representation. Emma will take the inputs and learnings with her in the continuous work of Komit, but also in SFS’s network for EUI student representatives.
The European Students Convention (ESC)
After the forum, Emma was joined by Némo from the SFS international committee to go to Zaragoza for ESC. The event was co-hosted by the European Students Union (ESU) and the Spanish National Union of Students (CREUP).
ESC is one of the recurrent internal events of ESU, where the representatives from the 45 different national student member unions are able to meet. The member unions take turns to arrange the event (which was what SFS did this spring!) and now the turn has come to CREUP.
The theme for the ESC was Students Rights, which is a relevant topic in Europe right now, especially when it comes to the breaches of academic freedom in many European countries. It is also a very relevant topic for ESU which is currently working on an updated students rights charter to present to the EU. The last student rights charter was adopted in 2021. The charter is a document stating the rights of European students and stems from the fundamental human right to education. ESU is working to implement them in all levels of higher education policy.
SFS together with the representatives from the nordic and baltic cooperation platform in ESU, Nordiskt Ordförandemøte (NOM), that was present at the ESC.
The ESC was also spent discussing and meeting with the representatives of the member unions, as well as an opportunity to discuss internal matters of the Nordisk Ordförandemöte (NOM), a collaboration between Nordic and Baltic national student unions.
During the ESC, the discussions mainly concerned the situation of student rights in Europe and suggestions to handle the challenges we share. A lot of experiences were shared during the session on internationalization of higher education; insights that Emma and Némo will bring with them in the continuous work of Komit this year.
SFS also contributed to the discussions and brought up perspectives on how the EU should work with green mobility, problems with student representation and financing in the European University Alliances, but also on more organizational issues such as the development of ESU as a social sustainable and gender inclusive organization.
Emma and Némo from SFS international committee at ESC in Zaragoza, Spain.