EU: Student manifesto presented to parliament

The European Students' Union has presented a manifesto for the European parliamentary elections to be held next month. The manifesto says the next parliamentary term from 2009 to 2014 provides the opportunity for parliament to go further in exercising its legislative rights and its non-legislative powers in relation to higher education "so as to put us fully on track to achieve a high-quality, equitable European Higher Education Area by 2020".

It says the last five years have witnessed a growing level of profile for, and attention on, higher education issues within the European parliament. To deliver the vision of a high-quality EHEA by 2020, the manifesto calls on the parliament to support the following principles:

* Equity - equal opportunities in higher education, fairness and non-discrimination.
* A higher education system valued and funded as a public good, and free from tuition fees.
* Participation and access for all - actions to make higher education representative of national populations and providing specific help for under-represented groups.
* Mobility opportunities for all in higher education.

The manifesto also lists five key actions the next European parliament should undertake:

* Budget increases for mobility and the lifelong learning programme.
* In partnership with the European Commission to create incentives that will enable Europe to deliver balanced 20% incoming and outgoing mobility for students across the EHEA by 2020.
* Support for schemes that deliver real equity in terms of a higher education system for all, not the few.
* Support for a students' rights charter.
* Increasing the student voice within the parliament.

Parliament should use its budgetary powers to push for increased spending on the lifelong learning programme and the specific education actions which come under it, specifically ERASMUS, and for additional money to deliver greater and more fully supported mobility, the manifesto states.

There needs to be a shift in ERASMUS so that it becomes a scheme for providing full support for mobile students at all levels of tertiary education (BA, MA and PhD), not just a tool for mobility financial assistance. 1

"With only 2.3% of EU students currently benefiting from mobility opportunities, this objective will not be achieved without concrete action at the European level," it says. "We therefore call upon the next parliament to ask the European Commission to provide real incentives for achieving 20% balanced incoming and outgoing student mobility by 2020."

"This basically means that every fifth student should be undergoing an academically meaningful study period abroad during his/her studies. The target is essential for meeting the EU's goals on the free movement of citizens across member states. Such a target can only be delivered with higher grants and an enhanced budget to make this a reality."

The manifesto says that a high-quality European Higher Education Area can only be a reality if there is a framework for the recognition and protection of students' rights within it. It calls on the parliament to offer its full support to the union's Students' Rights Charter, while also increasing "the student voice within the parliament".