The Erasmus Student Network has published the research report of the 14th edition of the ESNsurvey, Europe’s largest student-led research project in the field of Erasmus+ mobilities and international student exchange.
In its 14th 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.
“Through all these years, ESNsurvey has remained a student and volunteer-led initiative since its inception, and all its editions have only been possible thanks to the incredible work and commitment of all the ESN volunteers who have contributed to its creation, promotion and dissemination.” - Juan Rayón González, President of the Erasmus Student Network, 2021-2023
At the same time, the report also shows that a majority of the students cannot cover even 50% of their expenses with their mobility grants, and less than a third of students received their scholarships before the beginning of their mobilities. Simultaneously, problems with courses and recognition continue to hamper the mobility experience of students, with almost a third reporting not receiving full recognition.
The ESNsurvey was first launched in 2005 and it has become one of the most important tools to monitor the development of the Erasmus+ programmes and learning mobility in general. The report offers a comprehensive overview of the student's experiences and challenges, as well as evidence-based policy recommendations targeting European Institutions, National Authorities and Higher Education institutions. It is available at esn.org/esnsurvey in open source, and can also be found at the end of the article.
An overview of the results
The main findings cover the mobility experience of students, mobility support given by authorities and Higher Education Institutions, and the impact of mobilities on exchange students.
The survey has discovered that students' motivation to go on mobility is mainly shaped by experiencing different learning environments, meeting new people and living abroad. 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. The study also highlights that the integration level of international mobility students remains relatively low, almost half of the respondents did not feel integrated with the local community, with less than one-fifth feeling fully integrated (16.19%).
“My key driving factor was leaving my home university for a while, to come back with a different perspective, to step outside my comfort zone, experience an ‘exciting adventure’ and meet people from all over the world.” - Respondent of the ESNsurvey
Main factors to study abroad, by mobility programme (n = 10,315)
Financial sustainability, still a key factor
Financial issues still remain one of the key barriers to mobility for the majority of students. Almost half of the respondents cannot cover more than 50% of the costs of their mobilities with their grants. However, Students participating in International Credit Mobilities (ICM - KA171) can cover a much bigger part of their expenses due to the higher grants. More than a quarter of the sample reported a monthly scholarship of fewer than 301 euros.
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. Besides, the timing of grant payments still remains a relevant problem. 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.
“I received the 33% of the scholarship I was granted several months after I landed in my host country. This means that people with financial hardship cannot afford to study abroad despite the scholarships.” - Respondent of the ESNsurvey
Coverage of mobility costs by scholarship, percentage (general sample, n = 8454)
Credit recognition: not a given
Another fundamental issue is related to credit recognition and related issues encouraged on mobility. In this regard, 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%).
The main issues encountered by students on mobility also included stress, course-related problems and anxiety. 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.
The report paints an upbeat picture of the progress made during the last Erasmus+ in terms of services offered to students. The overall satisfaction with services provided by sending Higher Education Institutions shows improvements from previous editions of the ESNsurvey which covered services provided in 2016. Notably, 82.52% of students are satisfied or very satisfied with services provided by the host institution, compared to 63% in the ESNsurvey 2016.
“My home university was seeking full compliance between the courses I took abroad and those included in my programme at the home university. Since all universities offer very different courses from each other, after a full academic year spent in the host university, I had only 2 courses recognised, plus a language course. This means that I had to retake all 10 courses that I didn’t attend at my host university because of my 1-year exchange abroad.” - Respondent of the ESNsurvey
Mean satisfaction with host institution services (general sample, n = 8,463 to 8,409)
Between willingness, barriers, and potential
Erasmus+ strongly encourages further internationalisation, global citizenship and European identity. 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 a majority of them do not feel supported by their sending Higher Education Institution to do so.
Besides, students report the willingness 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 has also increased students’ awareness and interest in the environment and climate change, human rights and international conflicts, showing the potential of the programme to boost global citizenship and equip students with the necessary skills to navigate uncertainty.
Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a non-profit international student organisation. Our mission is to represent international students, thus providing opportunities for cultural understanding and self-development under the principle of Students Helping Students.
About the ESNsurvey
ESNsurvey is the biggest European research project planned and carried out entirely by students, for students. It aims to be conducted annually and it 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.
To view previous reports of ESNsurvey, visit esn.org/esnsurvey
For more information, reach out to the policy department of ESN at [email protected].