Copenhagen Declaration

Ten recommendations to the Presidency of the European Union
March 2012

The European Students Convention, together with experts from the educational, economic, and political fields, discussed and debated the interdependent factors and effects of employability and employment. These recommendations are the result of the convention, and written with the economic crisis in mind, as well as the long-term targets of the EU and the EHEA.

  1. Constructing employability. Ensuring a high quality in study related work experiences is a good way of developing skills; this should be paid with at least minimum wage where other forms of support are not available. Such opportunities should not, under any circumstances be used as means of free or cheap labour, as is increasingly the case because of the ongoing economic crisis.
  2. Education as a public good. Students need funds for living, necessary transportation, and in some cases, the payment of tuition fees. Funding should be available in an amount that makes studies, changing fields of study, and mobility possible. Education is a social responsibility and a public good, and therefore requires an investment of public funds. Institutions and governments must be transparent regarding the use of public funds for education and mobility, and must participate in discussions regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of spending behaviour within higher education.
  3. Quality of mobility and learning goals. The importance of the international experience must be recognized at a European, national and institutional level, as soft and hard skills gained through mobility are crucial for employability. Governments and educational institutions should work closer with business and employers to articulate and recognize the value of mobility. Institutions must ensure mobility periods with clearly defined, set learning outcomes. All mobility tools should therefore be used to help students achieve these learning goals. Moreover, students should have the appropriate information to help them make informed choices regarding the institution and/or organization where they wish to study, with a clear focus on the learning experience.
  4. Social enhancement. Equal opportunity in student mobility plays a crucial role in social enhancement. To this end, higher education institutions need to provide each student with the opportunity to study abroad. It is vital that every programme has a mobility window that is accessible to all. For this to be achieved, all students must be able to easily access sufficient information in order to plan and prepare their study experience abroad. If there is no mobility window within a study program, this must be pointed out and rectified.
  5. Erasmus grants. Increased funding for Erasmus should be prioritized, by increasing the size of individual grants as well as the volume of overall grants available. As financing remains the key barrier to mobility, participation from underrepresented groups should be specifically targeted and addressed.
  6. Erasmus loans. The proposed European master loan scheme will not contribute to removing the social barriers towards participating in mobility, nor will it contribute to social mobility.
  7. Employer responsibility. The employer must provide and support the employees life long learning, respect labour rights and should maintain an open dialogue with higher education institutions. When providing students with Internships and work placements, the employer has a responsibility to ensure quality and relevance of the various tasks and assignments.
  8. Government responsibility. Governments should be responsible for guaranteeing access to the labour market and preventing discrimination. They must provide support and grants for higher education institutions programmes to ensure employability. Governments are also responsible for the development of dynamic and cohesive labour markets. Governments must initiate and mediate the dialogue between academia, government entities, business and industry to create cohesive cooperation.
  9. Institutional responsibility. Institutions of higher education and the labour markets must cooperate to reach common goals. Access to and success in higher education must be available for all who wish to study. Business and industry must cooperate with academia in a responsible manner.
  10. Student responsibility. The European Students Union, National Unions of Students, and local unions will be responsible for developing and communicating cohesive strategies regarding these issues and will use them in lobbying activities at both institutional and national levels.