The European Students’ Union is a membership organisation of national unions of students in Europe. It has 47 members from 39 different countries. Through its members ESU represents over 20 million students in Europe. Its headquarters are in Brussels. The overall aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at a European level. By working with ESU, NUS is able to contribute to debate and influence the European Union, the Bologna Follow Up group, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. ESU is also a member of the European Youth Forum. ESU have a vision of equal educational and social opportunities in an open and democratic Europe where students work together to shape a sustainable future. You can find out more on their website here.
NUSUK was one of the founder members of an organisation called the Western European Students’ Information Bureau (WESIB), the idea was to meet together and exchange ideas, good practice and information. This was in contrast to meetings of what was known as the European Meeting which was dominated, at that time, by Soviet ideology making it very difficult to come to any agreement on anything. WESIB was created at a meeting of western European national student organisations on 18 October. The headquarters were originally based in the NUSUK offices on Holloway Road. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 eastern European student organisations began to join and WESIB became ESIB, at this point the focus was still on sharing information.
However, 1999 saw the creation of the European Higher Education Area, the “Bologna Process” and so in response to this ESIB established committees to look at specific issues and took on more of an advocacy role, by 2001 ESIB was recognised as a key stakeholder in the Bologna Process. In 2007 ESIB, in recognition of its greater representative role, changed its name to the European Students’ Union. In 2012 the organisation celebrated its thirtieth anniversary.
ESU is a democratic organisation, the overall policy and direction is agreed at Board Meetings which take place twice a year. The Board consists of representatives from all the member NUS organisations. These delegates elect an Executive Committee each year along with a Chairperson and two Vice Chairs (these are paid positions). These offices are supported in their work by a Quality Assurance Steering Committee which focusses on educational quality throughout Europe and a Commission for Internal Audit which monitors finance and governance issues. There are also three appointed Co-ordinators who cover Human Rights and Solidarity, Membership and Equalities they are all supported by a small staff secretariat.
The current elected officers are:
President: Adam Gajek (Poland)
Vice Chair: Katrina Koppel (Estonia)
Vice Chair: Robert Napier (Malta)
Gohar Hovhannisyan (Armenia)
João Pedro Estêvão Martins (Portugal)
Yulia Dobyshuk (Belarus)
Monika Skadborg (Denmark)
Ursa Leban (Slovenia)
Daniel Altman (Israel)
Sebastian Berger (Austria)
Human Rights and Solidarity: Martina Darmanin (Malta)
Membership: Rob Henthorn (UK)
Equalities: Helene Mariaud (Belgium)
In addition to Board Meetings ESU holds the European Students’ Convention a non-voting discussion forum that through debates and workshops and speakers allows members to exchange good practice and develop their own thinking around policies.
What does ESU do?
ESU clusters its work in three key areas:
•Representation and Advocacy
•Research and Concept Development
•Capacity Building and Information Exchange
The agreed, collective policies centre around higher education and international policy, access and support (the social dimension), public responsibility for education liked to governance and funding, quality and transparency which is linked to structural reform, academic affairs and student-centred learning, mobility and internationalisation.
ESU is a member of numerous working groups seeking to develop educational opportunities across Europe. In particular they are members of the Bologna Follow Up Group which meets at least twice a year.
Every three years the opportunity arises to influence the European Ministerial Conference at which elected Ministers responsible for education agree collaborative projects. NUSUK will be making sure that our support for greater student mobility is heard through our ESU representatives and will ensure that we have prepared our delegates for the European Higher Education Ministerial in Rome in 2020, you can find out more here.
ESU also have regular contact with the Education and Culture Committee of the European Commission, the European Council and Parliament and numerous sub committees and working groups, making sure that student concerns expressed through the member NUS organisations are heard.
In addition to contacts with UNESCO and the OECD ESU is able to influence the European Association for Quality Assurance (ENQA), European Association of Institutions of Higher Education (EURASHE), the European University Association (EUA), Business Europe and the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR).
ESU publish a range of publications on quality assurance, student centered learning and equality, in particular:
•Bologna with Student Eyes – a review of the Bologna experience from a student’s perspective, the first was published in 2005, the latest in 2017
•Quality Assurance – a report from the QUEST project
•A compendium on student funding models
ESU’s final area of work concerns capacity building for student organisations, this work is carried out at Conventions, training events and seminars. NUSUK takes part in the ESU Trainer’s Pool. You can find out more about this here.
ESU also co-ordinates European wide campaigns on education in the lead up to European Parliamentary elections, International Students’ Day, Equal Pay Day and LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning).
Why ESU does it?
NUSUK realises that if we are to effect positive change around education, social justice, sustainability and peace then we need to work in partnership with students on a global basis, we cannot do it alone. The more we, as students, work with our peers in Europe and beyond, the more we share our values and positive visions for the future the better able we are to bring about the changes we want to see.
NUSUK and ESU
The lead officer on our relationships with the European Students’ Union is usually the Vice President of Higher Education. Click here to download a presentation on how we work with the ESU.