This is the first ESNsurvey Report which presents results of the research done by the Erasmus Student Network in partnership with Petrus Communications. The aim of the research is to evaluate the experience of studying abroad and the quality of services offered to foreign exchange students at European universities. The research was conducted during June and July, 2005, during which an online survey was filled out by 7754 exchange students from universities around Europe. 

Sample characteristics

Exchange students who answered to our survey were mostly studying abroad through the Socrates/Erasmus Programme (85,7% of all respondents). Others went abroad through several other exchange programmes that last no longer than a year (12,6%). A small number of students who had enrolled normally at the university abroad (1,75% – i.e. not part of an exchange programme) also answered the survey but this report does not include results concerning this group.

The respondents were more often female (61,5%), and were, on average, 23,5 years old. They studied business/management (20%), engineering/technology (19%), languages and philological studies (11%), social sciences (8%) and many other fields of studies. Most students were from Western European countries (78%); the other 22% of students came from Central and Eastern European countries.

All students spent an average of 7 months abroad, mostly (86%) in 2004 and 2005. e main host countries were Spain (13%), Italy (12%), Germany (10%), Sweden (9%) and France (8%).

Key findings

Motivations for going abroad varied for different groups of students. While the top motivations were generally to practice a foreign language, to have new experiences and to enhance future career prospects, female students and students from Central and Eastern Europe were more often academically oriented.

Most of the respondents (68%) were very satisfied with their stay abroad and 26% were rather satisfied. Students neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, rather dissatisfied or very dissatisfied constitute a clear minority (4%, 0,9% and 0,5% respectively). Students were generally less satisfied with their studies than with their stay (4,0 compared to 4,6 at the five point scale).

Our respondents were most satisfied with the social dimension of their stay (social life, atmosphere of the city and country, contact with the host country culture). ey were less satisfied with the problem-solving dimension (information before and after the stay, finances, International Office assistance). Despite some of the areas of dissatisfaction, 98% of respondents would recommend studying abroad to their friends.

As far as learning processes are concerned, students considered study abroad programmes an opportunity to acquire cultural skills and knowledge (92% of respondents believed they have learned more about the culture of the host country) and to enrich one’s academic life. It was a time for self-development, and becoming more independent. Students not only learned new skills but also developed social networks. Furthermore, it gave them an opportunity to explore new places and new possibilities and to decide about future career tracks.

As far as student activities are concerned, most of the students took courses at the university (94%) during their stay. 27% of students worked on their thesis and 33% did independent study. A little over a quarter of students did laboratory work (27%). When it comes to extracurricular activities, 73% took language courses, 18% of the sample worked, 13% did internships and 7% did volunteer work. Almost all of the students (93%) travelled around the host country.

Students who took part in extracurricular activities such as internships (13%) or volunteer work (7%) were more satisfied with their contact with the local culture and local students.

57% of respondents had heard of the Erasmus Student Network. Students whose universities had an ESN section were in contact with ESN on average several times a month. 71% of students are (very or rather) satisfied with the ESN section at their host university, 22% were neither dissatisfied nor satisfied, 5% were only rather dissatisfied and 2% were very dissatisfied.

e respondents were most satisfied with the help of ESN in following aspects: – providing information about the stay and about studying after arrival
– enhancing contacts with other exchange students
– social and cultural activities: trips, visiting tours, parties.

The more frequent contact students had with ESN, the more satisfied they were with the ESN’s work and, additionally, the more satisfied they were with the stay in general.

The research demonstrates that the higher a student’s satisfaction is with an organisation whose role is taking care of exchange students (like ESN or any student organisation working with visiting students), the higher his/her level of satisfaction with his/her stay and studies is likely to be.

Disabled students articulated slightly lower levels of satisfaction with their stay. In their case we identified a relation between satisfaction with the Buddy/mentor/tutor system provided by ESN and the overall level of satisfaction. We conclude that ESN can enhance the satisfaction of disabled students via the Buddy system.

28% of respondents were aware of another student organisation taking care of exchange students.

79,3% of respondents would consider moving to a foreign country; 14,8% are undecided and only 5,9% would not consider it. Of the students who would consider moving to foreign country, 69% would prefer to move there for a long time but not permanently. Students from Western Europe are more mobile than students from Central and Eastern Europe.

The Erasmus Student Network has a slight but statistically significant influence on respondents’ attitude to mobility, which is related to enhancing their satisfaction with the social aspects of their stay.


Ewa Krzaklewska and Seweryn Krupnik

The Project

The ESNsurvey is the biggest regular European research project planned and carried out entirely by students for students. It is conducted annually and surveys students at higher education institutions. ESN shares the results with the main stakeholders in higher education and mobility programmes.

ESNsurvey aims at:

  • Exploring current issues connected to academic and non-academic mobility and education.
  • Getting a better insight into student issues in order to represent their real needs.