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ESNsurvey2016-starting a new decade of tracing international student experience

As a major international project of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), the 11th edition of the annual ESNsurvey asks the key question ‘’How internationally friendly are European Universities?’’

The survey launched this month in Brussels, in the presence of the European Commission, student organisations and the higher education community, and seeks to investigate experiences of the study abroad period from a student perspective in order to generate evidence-based recommendations for higher education institutions and stakeholders. To gain a comprehensive understanding of study experiences the survey addressed several target groups – Homecoming Erasmus students, Local students without study abroad period, Current exchange students and Homecoming trainees. Collectively the sample yielded the highest participation rate in the survey to date, with a total of nearly 25 000 responses. From the main group of homecoming Erasmus students (12,365), 74% were Bachelors and 26% Masters students from 118 countries.  

Findings and recommendations along key areas include:

Student migration in Europe

  • Longer stays are beneficiary to  perceived employability, foreign language skills, and better local integration
  • Pursuing studies in a country other than the first choice of destination, did not significantly influence satisfaction
  • Improvement in grant coverage is emphasized, as a mere 10% of students felt grants covered 80% of their costs. Top-upped EU grants seem to have had positive influence for  those from lower socio- eco backgrounds
  • Mobility triggers mobility - 70% of students were interested in a Master’s abroad, but see financial limitations

Host Universities Service for International students

  • Preventative actions as providing accurate information on costs, courses and exams, prior to departure and upon arrival, significantly contribute to a seamless study experience. Above 80% of students received introductory and language courses, but only 48% were assigned a buddy.
  • Cooperation between HEI and local students associations (as ESN) facilitates the management of such services.

International students adapting academically & socially

  • 80% of students strongly felt that they were not discriminated against 
  • 90% confirmed that a positive and supportive relation to their host professors was important and promotion of cross cultural interaction in class was highly valued.
  • The top three reasons for limited interaction with locals: Local students are not interested (40%), Not enough opportunities (33%), Locals have a different lifestyle (23%)
  • To strengthen cross-national bonds there is a need for high quality out-of-class social programmes and support in finding mixed accommodation.

Post-mobility & re-Integration at Home University

  • Close to 70% of the respondents believe that re-entry services should be offered to students.
  • 93% of the former exchange students and 86% of those who haven’t spent a period abroad would be willing to migrate abroad for work or studies.





The ESN2016 survey is a complement to European level surveys, and takes the unique approach of relying solely on volunteers and cooperation of over 500 local ESN-sections in 40 countries. It differentiates by building an understanding from the students’ side of mobility, revealing that international experience initiates lasting aspirations in students to shape studies, life and careers across European and global boarders in ‘’an international-friendly campus environment that is non-discriminative, supportive and culturally-diverse’’.  


The upcoming ESNsurvey 2017 on the topic ‘Mapping the challenges & enablers of mobility for students with disabilities’ has just been launched as well, and contributions are welcomed here-

ESNsurvey2016 - Full report