The EDSSI consortium organised the first online European Forum for Student Service Providers on the 12th of July 2022.
The Forum gathered representatives from private companies, organisations and university departments dealing with different services for Higher Education students (such as the accommodation, canteen and food services, transportation, healthcare, etc.) and showcased one of the most innovative tools developed during the EDSSI project, namely the Student Service Providers’ Erasmus Dashboard module.
During the Forum, participants had the chance to hear from the Consortium representatives about the main challenges Erasmus+ students face when arriving in the city of their host university. International students often have no direct access to the same offer of services available to the local peers, frequently due to the fact that the information is either disseminated in the local language and not in English, or scattered in different websites on the internet. As a result, the lack of quality of information along with other issues – such as the financial burden, insufficient housing offer etc. – risks posing a considerable (negative) impact on the mobility experience of Erasmus+ students. Therefore, a truly successful internationalisation strategy needs not only to take services into consideration but also to make them more available and satisfactory for all, including international students.
How can this be achieved? By building a trusted network where local Student Service Providers (SSPs), both from private and public sectors, constantly communicate with International Relation Officers (IROs) and, more generally, with Higher Education Institutions. The new module of the Dashboard is precisely conceived to shorten the distance between SSPs and IROs, making it easier for IROs to collect information about the services available in each city and share it with their students.
Following the presentation of the new module, the participants had the opportunity to discuss and share their feedback and experiences. Emilie Le Corre, CNOUS (Le Centre national des œuvres universitaires et scolaires) representative, stressed how the aspect of multilingualism is extremely relevant in student mobility. “This is why CNOUS is planning to use the new module on the Dashboard to make the information about services available, mainly relating to accommodation, accessible to Erasmus+ students not only in English, but also in their native language. “
During the exchange, a further point was raised by Kovács Krisztina, Disability coordinator at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) University, who put the perspective of Erasmus+ students with disabilities on the discussion table. When selecting their host university, students with disabilities have the tendency to decide on the basis of the services available in a particular institution, rather than on their interests and preferences. With this in mind, Krisztina suggested that SSPs should be encouraged to include whether their services are compatible for students with disabilities and this could be done by adding the inclusivity layer in future updates of the module of the Dashboard. Indeed, the additional information would not only facilitate the job of the IROs but also support students with disabilities in finding the most suitable university. This aspect is all the more relevant when considering that the new Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027 places a strong focus on inclusion. Furthermore, Krisztina proposed to set up minimum standards for services available for students with disabilities in order to make the Erasmus+ programme fairer and more equal to everyone.
In a nutshell, the first European Forum for Student Service Providers was extremely valuable since it gave the EDSSI consortium the chance to listen to the perspective and experiences of one of the stakeholders groups of the EDSSI project.
More fora will be organised under the EDSSI L2 project in Autumn 2022. If you are interested in attending similar events in the future, please consider following the European University Foundation on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.