The focus of this year´s edition was to answer the question "to what extent does the experience in Erasmus+ and other student exchange programmes determine the students’ active participation (civil, political, social) in society?" Essentially, we focused on understanding if going abroad makes students more engaged on a political, civil, and social level. What are the trends of active citizenship gained through the study abroad experience? Does this have an impact on their opinion on the European Union as the entity that finances the Erasmus+ Programme? And on their voting behaviour? How do these elements interact with each other? These are the main questions we aimed at addressing in this study.

The main questionnaire gathered 14,681 answers and the follow-up questionnaire 4,381 which amounts to a total of 19,062 answers for the ESNsurvey 2019. 

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Key findings

  1. Every four in ten respondents do not know what civil participation is
    According to the results of our questionnaire, 41.69% of respondents do not know what the term “civil participation” means. This apparent lack of knowledge translates into low rates of respondents who have expressed their views on public issues with their elected representatives and who have taken part in public debates, both forms of civil participation.

  2. Online participation is more prevalent among young people 
    A total of 66.67% of women and 64.21% of men signed a petition (on paper or online). At the European level, according to the “Flash Eurobarometer 373”, only 34% of the respondents (the highest number in that study) had signed petitions. Additionally, 35.02% of respondents of our survey say that they have expressed their views on public issues on the internet or in social media, a number higher than the Eurobarometer’s 28%.

  3. Students do not feel very informed about the work of civil society organisations on the European level
    While 35.34% of the respondents feel quite informed about the work of civil society at the local level and 37.80% feel quite informed about it at the national level, only 5.37% feel the same at the European level. Paradoxically, 67.56% agree or strongly agree that civil society organisations have the capacity to influence decision-making at the European level. This is a more optimistic perspective than the European average of 53% totally agreeing, according to the “Flash Eurobarometer 373”.

  4.  Students with an exchange experience are far more engaged in civil society organisations than the average European youth
    While, according to the “Flash Eurobarometer 455”, 47% of the average European youth is not a member of any civil society organisation, this number is reduced to 19% in the population with an exchange experience. The respondents of our survey are also twice as likely to be engaged in a cultural or human rights organisation and three times more likely to be engaged in organisations active in environmental issues when compared to the average European youth.

  5. 30% of respondents feel very or quite informed about the European Parliament’s work
    When asked how informed they feel about the European Parliament's functions and responsibilities, about one-third of respondents considered to be very or quite informed about the work of this institution. This number is in line with the European average.

  6. Students who are on exchange vote less
    Students on exchange indicate procedural barriers as the main reasons for not voting in the 2019 European elections. Even though 70.54% intend to vote in the elections of 2024, only 51.19% expected to do it in 2019.

  7. Erasmus+ Alumni have higher interest and are more likely to vote in European elections than the European average
    Students who participated in an EU-funded exchange programme (Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes) give higher importance to the European elections (60.69%), had higher intention of voting in the European elections 2019 (76.18%) and had a higher election turnout (71.20%) when compared to the European average of the younger population (18-39), as presented by Eurobarometer surveys

  8. EU students with an exchange experience wish for more rights as EU citizens and for more European civic education in schools
    On the question “Which of the following things would do most to strengthen your feeling of being a European citizen?”, 58.37% of our respondents chose “Being able to live anywhere in the EU after you retire and draw your pension there directly” and 55.55% chose “A European social welfare system harmonised between the member states (health, pensions, etc.)”. This prioritisation is similar to that of average Europeans, according to “Eurobarometer 79.5”. However, while 46.64% of our respondents would also like to have “European civic education classes starting in primary school”, this is only true for 20% of average European

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