E-Value-ate Your Exchange is the title of this year’s survey. The main part of this sixth edition of the ESNsurvey covers a crucial element of student mobility: Financing the studies abroad. It additionally explores international students’ evaluations of their personal development and the differences between their home and host Higher Education Institutions (HEI). The general aim of the report is to make a contribution to enhance the quality of exchange studies and widen the scope of cross-border mobility in education.

The current and future challenges of European integration can only be mastered if people are willing and able to understand each other. The impact of student mobility can hardly be overemphasised in this context. Getting to know different cultures, languages, and educational systems is a unique contributor to create and foster European identity and mutual understanding.

The ongoing negotiations about the budget and design of future mobility programmes from 2014 on, when the current Lifelong Learning Programme expires, are the main motivation to gather information on the impact of finances for mobile students. This study also shows what students who have experienced different HEIs in different countries consider important characteristics of higher education studies. We can only develop target-oriented policies if we have sufficient information about the needs and effects of financial matters on international students.

Providing the necessary resources to enable potentially mobile students to go on exchange is pivotal for the promo on of student mobility. Our hope is to encourage policy makers to design future programmes that are sufficiently funded. The following report gives some insight where action is most needed and which areas to focus on.

Key findings

General satisfaction with studies and stay abroad

  • Social life and the atmosphere of the host city and country are the two aspects students are most satisfied with (more than 80% are satisfied or very satisfied).
  • Contact with local culture is valued third highest considering very and rather satisfied students (79%).
  • In general, mobile students tend to rate the host institution higher than their home institution.

Satisfaction with studies abroad

  • The level of satisfaction with the studies abroad is highly correlated with the evaluations of the courses offered at the host institution.
  • The extent to which students improve their academic knowledge and the quality of teaching are additional important factors explaining students’ satisfaction with the study period abroad.

Satisfaction with the stay abroad

  • Ratings for social life are highly correlated with satisfaction levels of the stay abroad in general. Also, high ratings for improving critical thinking skills and positive assessments of the atmosphere of the host city and country are correlated with substantially higher satisfaction with the stay abroad.
  • The findings show that it has a negative effect on satisfaction levels if going abroad is mandatory for students.

Funding the stay abroad

  • Around 10% of responding students lack funding to finance even basic necessities during their period abroad.
  • 35% of the respondents would not have gone abroad without financial support and 30% are not certain whether they would have gone abroad.

Financial situation

  • More than 90% of students receive an official grant for their studies abroad. For 80% of students the grant covers less than 60% of the total expenses.
  • For 30% the amount does not even cover rent expenses. The rest of the expenses are most frequently covered by family support (80%) and personal savings (51%).
  • The grant amount affects 25% of students in choosing a place to study.

Expectations and personal development

  • Students go abroad for a number of reasons; the most frequently mentioned one being “meeting new people”. Expectations like “improving academic knowledge” are generally fulfilled.
  • Stay abroad also increases various soft skills: 93% feel that their intercultural awareness has increased 91% find their adaptability improved, 87% think they are more flexible, 78% feel more tolerant, 74% have higher problem solving skills, 71% improve their planning and organizing skills, 65% feel more innovative, 62% are better team workers, 59% return more creative, and 58 % think their stay abroad has improved their analytical competence.

Assessing institutions

  • More than half of the respondents state that the most important aspect when assessing a university is the teaching quality followed by the employability of graduate students.
  • Satisfaction with ESN and other student organisations. On a scale from 1.00 to 5.00, the average satisfaction with ESN is 4.00 compared to 3.85 with other student organisations. Activities students appreciate the most are social gatherings, trips, visiting tours and welcome days.
  • Providing assistance with finding housing and administrative tasks (e.g. banking, visa issues), representing students in front of institutions and getting students in contact with local students are potential areas for improvement.

Authors

Authors: Emanuel Alfranseder, Julia Fellinger, Marge Taivere, Ewa Krzaklewska and Marco La Rosa.

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.