EUROSTUDENT is a comprehensive comparative analysis of the study conditions and socio-economic characteristics of students in European higher education. The fifth and latest issue, published earlier this month, assembles three years of data (2012-2015) on the social dimension of European higher education, collected from 30 countries. Judging from the growing coverage of EUROSTUDENT V, the social dimension of higher education is being increasingly recognized as essential to the social cohesion and economic prosperity of Europe.
The period which this report covers has been marked by difficult economic conditions and a resulting lowering of public budgets in support of students. At the same time, higher education participation in Europe has continued to expand, leading to an increasingly diverse student body. The EUROSTUDENT V report assesses the accessibility of higher education to different groups of students, particularly those who have been traditionally underrepresented (such as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.)
The report highlights the links between economic growth, education and employment in three important ways. It shows, firstly, that many countries have made progress in incorporating students from lower SES backgrounds. Notably, these students are more likely to bring previous work experience into their university and college experiences. Secondly, the report shows more students nowadays combine their studies with work. Together, these two factors speak of an unprecedented opportunity for colleges and universities to establish stronger links between studies and the labour market. Thirdly, the report draws a number of interesting conclusions from its examination of the temporary international mobility of students during their studies. For instance, it finds that better information on the benefits of going abroad and on the availability of support would contribute to make study abroad more inclusive, as financial constraints are not the only obstacle to greater inclusiveness.
In line with its purpose, the EUROSTUDENT V report is sure to inspire many policy debates and to lay the ground for further research in the months and years to come.