The fifth edition of the ESNsurvey is dedicated to one of the core challenges of our time: Provision of Information. Previous ESNsurveys have shown that information provision is amongst the most problematic issues and substantially affects general satisfaction levels of exchange students. Thus the title of the ESNsurvey 2009 is “Information on Exchange”. Once more, students were able to express their opinions, share their concerns and jointly contribute to a gradual improvement of the quality of exchange studies.

The complexity of the modern world in general and the fast changing environment in the field of education in particular, make having the right information at the right time an invaluable asset. The final report of this edition helps to determine where the deficiencies lie, which channels students use the most and which types of information they most urgently need. The Survey gives clear and practical insight on what can be improved, based on students’ actual needs.

If potential exchange students become confused when it comes to obtaining essential information on how to realise an exchange period, they will easily be deprived of their motivation and excitement for actually going abroad. The lower the barriers in terms of time and energy to search for information, the higher the chance that more people can benefit from this enriching experience.

It is the ultimate goal of the Erasmus Student Network to remove the barriers to participation and enable everyone the chance to study or work abroad, contributing to an increase in cultural awareness and better mutual understanding in Europe and the world. The following report is another piece in the jigsaw for achieving the aforementioned goals.

Key findings

General satisfaction with information provision

  • Students are usually more satisfied with information provision provided by the host university than with the sufficiency of information available from their home university prior to their studies abroad.
  • Satisfaction with information provision prior to studies abroad from the home university (Turkey- relatively higher than other countries and Greece, Italy and Spain are evaluated relatively lower).
  • Satisfaction with information provision during studying abroad from host universities (Finland, Sweden and Norway- highest and Italy, Greece and Spain- lowest).

Information sources used before departure to the host country

  • Students hear about the exchange possibility from other students at their home university (43.7%), the International Relations Office at their home university (19.9%) or from teachers at the home university (15.8%).
  • Most of them search actively for information about exchange: often on the relevant websites on the Internet (72%), but they also inquire with other exchange students (40%) and the administration of the Erasmus Programme at the university.
  • Around 40% of students do not have any problems when searching for information before going on exchange, others say that information has been hard to find, has been not up-to-date, they have not known where to look for it or it has been missing.

Types of information needed before exchange

  • The most important types of information needed before leaving are: information about housing and information about the university

Information about university and studying

  • The most used channels to learn about the host university prior to the exchange period are found within the home university.
  • After arrival, students mostly use host university information sources from administration staff (such as International Relations Officer and Erasmus coordinator).
  • Student organisations (such as ESN) also prove important to students upon their arrival to the host university – about a quarter of students use them as information providers.
  • The most important information for students concerns the courses available at the host university (62%).
  • The information that most often appears to be incorrect concerns the courses availability, the content and the way they are organised.

Information about housing

  • Most students (83%) search for information on housing before their exchange. Over half (54%) receive this information from the International Office of the hosting university and also former exchange students (11%).

Information concerning visa issues

  • Most of the students (90%) do not need a visa to go on exchange (mostly Turkish students who need a visa and a permit of stay).The institutions from which they receive information concerning those issues are the embassy of the host country and both the home (more helpful when it comes to visa information) and host institutions (most helpful when it comes to information concerning permit of stay).
  • 23% of students need a permit of stay.

Information concerning extracurricular activities

  • 12% of students work in the host country (mostly Polish, Romanian and Italian students).
  • The countries in which students most often work are Denmark, Norway and Germany.
  • Students rarely do volunteer work in the host country (7.2%). Most of them look for possibilities of volunteer work after having spent some time in the host country (64.4%).

Student organisations’ activities and their role

  • 25.5% of respondents know about ESN before going on exchange, while another 33.1% get to know ESN during their exchange period.
  • There is an ESN section in 63.3% of participants’ host universities. Students are rather satisfied with ESN activities. They are most satisfied with informal meetings and social activities, trips and visiting tours as well orientation and welcome weeks.
  • Exchange students have asked ESN sections to represent them in front of student related authorities in more than 400 cases and ESN has been able to achieve positive results in more than two thirds of those cases.
  • Currently, students would turn mostly to the International Relations Office if they were in need of someone to represent their rights as an exchange student. The second choice was Erasmus Student Network. 

Authors

Authors: Emanuel Alfranseder (Coordinator), Ewa Krzaklewska, Marco La Rosa, Marge Taivere, Tajana Nikolic and Walter Bonifazi.

Note: ESNSurvey 2012 was renamed to 2013 according to the year of publication of the booklets and not to the publication of the questionnaire.

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.
  • Gettting a better insight into student issues in order to represent their real needs.