The article seeks to advance understanding of the involvement of transnational student associations in European governance of higher education policies within the European Union (EU) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Specifically, the article explores the mechanisms for interest intermediation that exist for transnational student associations in both policy arenas. Three transnational student associations stand out in terms of their involvement: European Students’ Union (ESU), Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and European Students’ Forum (AEGEE). The findings point to two distinct models of student interest intermediation in European policy-making. Within the EU, the European Commission interacts with all three transnational student associations; however, ESU and ESN participate in more expert and working groups. The roles afforded to each association in relation to the European Commission are demarcated and functionally differentiated. Within EHEA, in neo-corporatist fashion, ESU, as a representative platform of national student unions, holds representational monopoly. In the EHEA and the EU, the involvement of transnational student associations in policy-making can be attributed to the evolving nature of transnational governance regimes in which participation of transnational student associations not only brings expertise to but also aids the legitimacy of the policy processes and outcomes.
Erasmus+ is one of the European Union’s flagship programs which supports short-term international student mobility within Europe as one of its primary purposes. Erasmus students are uniquely well placed to compare educational processes of their home and host institutions, the learning environments and student life conditions. They are so far under-utilized resource of information on quality of educational practices and insights on how to improve student experiences. Furthermore, international students often lack a collective voice in university structures where they could contribute to the decisions concerning quality of educational practices. So far, student surveys have been the most frequently used approach in understanding lived experiences of Erasmus and international students. This commentary argues that qualitative approaches to collect data on student lived experiences are superior to survey research, yet more costly. In times when all students are digital natives, it has become possible, however, to canvass data from students through digital ethnographic approaches. The commentary introduces ErasmusShouts, a web application, which engages Erasmus students as auto-ethnographers and prompts them to reflect on, and record their lived experiences of Erasmus mobility. This approach can be adopted to generate large-scale qualitative data on international students’ experiences for use by higher education practitioners and researchers to improve educational practices and learning environments.
Student-centered learning (SCL) has entered center stage on the European higher education (HE) policy agenda after the Yerevan Ministerial Summit of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in May 2015. It has become the key principle underlying the intended reforms toward enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in European HE. Despite the universal appeal, SCL remains poorly defined in policy documents and this ambiguity potentially jeopardizes its implementation. The article addresses the different instances and evocations of the SCL approach in EHEA policies. Furthermore, it seeks to clarify the conceptual foundations of SCL. Two propositions are put forward. First, SCL should be understood as a ‘meta-concept’. Such an understanding serves as a corrective to the eclectic use of SCL in association with a broad variety of policy issues. Second, the article questions the suitability of student engagement as a conceptual foundation of SCL. The main argument is that student engagement conceptually fails to sufficiently address student autonomy, self-regulation and choice, all of which have been highlighted by the literature as essential elements of SCL. The root concern of SCL is not propensity to different types of student action as implied in student engagement, but rather student agency as students’ capabilities to intervene in and influence their learning environments and learning pathways.