A few months ago in April this year we organized an EUROSTUDENT policy-makers conference in Malta to bring together ministry representatives from all the countries participating in EUROSTUDENT VI, as well as other interested policy-makers and international stakeholders. One of the aims of the event was to provide a first “sneak preview” of the fresh EUROSTUDENT VI data, but also to invite participants to provide feedback and discuss the policy relevance of different topics and questions related to the socio-economic situation of students in the European Higher Education Area.
The conference was opened by Kristina Hauschildt (EUROSTUDENT project coordinator), Joseph Schembri (EUPA National coordinator, Malta) and Martin Borg (NCFHE Chief Executive Officer), who welcomed all the participants to the event as well as to Malta, which is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This was followed by a wonderful presentation by Mette-Moerk Andersen (Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission) and David Crosier (Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency/Eurydice) who discussed the role and value of EUROSTUDENT in European policy making through providing a better understanding of how policies are affecting students in different countries.
Next up we had members of the EUROSTUDENT VI consortium (Vaida Šaukeckienė and Eglė Ozolinčiūtė from MOSTA, Lithuania and Eva Vögtle from DZHW, Germany) presenting some key preliminary findings of the current round of the project. Unfortunately we cannot share these findings publicly in our blog yet (these will be published in March 2018 in the final report of the project), but it was definitely interesting to see the trends of student mobility or students working alongside studies in different countries. After the presentation participants were invited to reflect and discuss the preliminary findings more in depth in three parallel workshops, which focussed on international mobility of students, combining work and studies and access to higher education. We will share some notes, thoughts and conclusions made at the workshops in our upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned for that!
The afternoon was also devoted to interesting discussions as we had a panel session combined with questions, comments and remarks from the audience. The panel included David Crosier and Martin Borg (already introduced above) as well as Hans Hermsen (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands), Johanna Moisio (Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland), Odile Ferry (Observatoire de la Vie Étudiante, France) and the panel moderator Kristina Hauschildt. The discussions focussed mainly on topics such as the role and use of EUROSTUDENT data in national policy making processes as well as in the European Higher Education Area, the ways of disseminating EUROSTUDENT findings more efficiently (identifying relevant stakeholders, reporting formats and communication channels) as well as the future outlook for EUROSTUDENT in general.
We are very thankful to all the participants for the thought-provoking and fruitful presentations and discussions. We got several inspiring ideas for the development of our EUROSTUDENT project and hope that the participants also left with some new ideas and relevant information for policy making. In conclusion we can share three main points that in our opinion reflect and sum up some of the discussions at the conference:
- Get to know your student population. Social dimension of higher education is complex and difficult to analyse and statistical data is not enough here – a student perspective is needed to understand how policies affect students in different countries.
- Cooperation and learning from others is key. Diversity of the student population makes comparability and policy making difficult, but policy makers need to work together with researchers to crunch the numbers as well as learn from other countries’ experience when improving their higher education policies.
- You always need to be careful with the data. Data should be always looked at critically in order to make more sophisticated reflections and desicions based on the data.