The ESNsurvey is a Europe-wide research project covering different topics concerning mobility and education. It is the largest project of its kind carried out solely by volunteers. Every year since the establishment of the project in 2005, the ESNsurvey team develops an online questionnaire and disseminates it among students at European Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to collect information about students’ experiences from their exchange period abroad. Many associations, students, teachers, academics and various European institutions collaborate with ESN on this project.
ESNsurvey - XIV Edition: "Understanding the experiences and needs of exchange students in challenging times"
In its XIV edition, the ESNsurvey collected more than 10 000 answers in 2021. The main objective of the survey was to monitor the implementation of Erasmus+ Higher Education mobilities and other student exchanges, considering the commitments included in the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education, the quality framework that Universities need to adhere to in order to participate in Erasmus+ mobilities.
The report shows that overall satisfaction with student mobilities improved considerably since the beginning of the last Erasmus+ programme and that mobility has a remarkable impact on the students, increasing their interest in sustainability and making them more internationally minded. However, financial support, recognition and lack of interaction with local communities remain a challenge. Trainees report lower levels of satisfaction than participants in study mobilities, and Erasmus+ International Credit Mobilities receive higher levels of satisfaction.
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Motivations to go on mobility
Experiencing different learning environments, meeting new people and living abroad are the main motivations for going on mobility among students. Mobile trainees have a bigger interest in career development aspects, such as enhancing career prospects or building a professional network, than participants in mobility for studies.
Integration in local communities
Almost half of the respondents did not feel integrated with the local community, with less than one-fifth feeling fully integrated (16.19%). Almost a third (29.24%) felt “neutral” about the question.
Participation in group activities involving the hosting communities
More than half of respondents (54.67%) did not take part in organised group activities in their hosting communities, with less than 8% volunteering during their mobility experiences. Sports clubs (16.64%) and student and youth associations (13.81%) were the most popular activities.
Satisfaction with the social life of exchange students
Satisfaction with social life remained high even during the pandemic, with more than three-quarters of students being satisfied (34.33%) or very satisfied (41.06%) overall. However, there was a considerable drop compared to pre-pandemic times: the pre-pandemic level of satisfaction was 20% higher than the one during. Erasmus+ trainees have considerably lower levels of satisfaction than their peers doing Erasmus+ studies: 55% of students reported being very satisfied with their social life before the pandemic, while the figure for trainees was 41%.
Satisfaction with services provided by sending HEIs
Reintegration activities and involvement in alumni communities have the lowest levels of satisfaction among the services provided by sending institutions, while application preparation and mobility information provision score the best results.
Satisfaction with services provided by host institutions
Among the services provided by host institutions, Insurance assistance, integration in the local community and accommodation receive the lowest levels of satisfaction, while welcome activities and linguistic support receive the highest satisfaction rates. The services provided by student organisations in the host institution also stand out for the level of satisfaction.
Erasmus+ scholarships amounts
More than half of Erasmus+ scholarships lie within 201 to 500 euros per month, short of the financial needs reported by students. Moreover, more than a quarter of the sample reports a monthly scholarship of less than 301 euros. Grants for ICM students are considerably higher than those for intra-European mobility students: more than 70% report grants of over 700 euros.
Cost coverage of Erasmus+ scholarships
Almost half of the respondents can’t cover more than 50% of the costs of their mobilities with their grants. Students participating in International Credit Mobilities (ICM - KA171) can cover a much bigger part of their expenses due to the higher grants.
Top-ups in mobility
Around 15% of respondents reported receiving top-ups or additional grants, but lack of awareness of how Erasmus+ funding works is common: More than 12% of respondents reported not knowing whether they had received top-ups or not. Confusion between disadvantaged backgrounds and special needs is common among top-up recipients.
Schedule of grant payments
More than a quarter of respondents received their grants later than one month after the beginning of their mobilities, and only one-third received the grant before departure. Major differences exist among countries, with countries such as France, Spain and Italy having a bigger prevalence of late payments
Credit recognition on mobility
Almost a third of respondents (28.63%) reported not receiving full credit recognition, far from the objectives laid out in the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education. Results for International Credit Mobility (72.77% full recognition) participants are considerably better than those from intra-European mobility Erasmus+ students (63.68%) .
Main issues encountered by students on mobility
Stress, course-related problems and anxiety are the three main issues encountered by students. More than a fifth of the students reported “experiencing a lot” of issues related to feeling of stress. When it comes to the problems related to the courses, the percentage was 16.36%. Accommodation (15.73%) and financial issues also affect a considerable number of students.
Students as multipliers of their mobility experiences
A majority of respondents are keen on becoming multipliers of their mobility experiences and supporting other students as members of associations, ambassadors or buddies, but less than one-fifth felt encouraged by the home Higher Education Institutions to do so.
Student mobility, internationalisation and identity
Student mobility fosters internationalisation, global citizenship and European identity: the majority of students would like to have more international experiences during their studies, they would like to live abroad, and they identify more with the world and the European Union, without losing identification with their countries or regions.
Learning mobility and awareness about global issues
Learning mobility increases awareness and interest in the environment and climate change, human rights and international conflicts. More than half of the respondents report that their mobility had an impact on their interest in climate change and the environment.