Beginning in February of this year, the Erasmus Student Network, ESN, has been evaluating problems on student recognition by home universities. According to the organization, more than half a million students have problems getting full credit from their exchange.
Karin Persdotter, national ESN representative for Sweden from Växjö, and Oscar Boije, vice president of ESN Lund consider this to be a major issue that should be adressed.
“One third of these students are not getting any recognition for the work they had done abroad at their home universities. So far two million students have participated in the Erasmus program since it was launched 23 years ago. One third of two million students is quite a big number,” Boije said.
Study explore issues after exchanges
According to the agreement all Erasmus students are supposed to receive full credit for their studies abroad. However, that often does not happen.
ESN hopes to spread the word about the continuation of the international survey PRIME (Problems of making Recognition In Making Erasmus), used to explore the problems exchange students face when they return home.
Problems with course selection
Persdotter explained that “all universities in Europe are supposed to follow the ECTS grade conversion system.”
This system should allow for students to transfer the credits they receive while traveling abroad, however, something usually tends to happen along the way. “Many students run into problems during the time lapse between their admission and their arrival,” said Persdotter.
“Some of them find that the course they signed up for is no longer available and have to make adjustments to their studies.”
Basically, a student signs up for a course that later may disappear from the foreign university’s directory. The students compensate for this by signing up for different courses.
However, because their home universities were not aware of this, they don’t allow for the student to receive credit, because the changed course was not part of the agreement.
“Flexibility is important”
The biggest problem for students is a poor exchange of information between universities. This can cause heavy consequences, such as an extra year or semester, exactly what ESN says should not be necessary.
Karin Persdotter emphasizes a need for more flexibility at the universities.
“We need to recognize that the ESN exchange is an experience that is valuable,” explained Persdotter.
Oscar Boije agrees.
“Universities should be open so that students can be allowed to study courses that may not be available at home.”
What universities should do
Moreover, Persdotter suggests that universities should provide more access to detailed information in English on their courses and, more importantly, on their availability.
“This is the second time ESN has done the PRIME survey,” Boije said.
A report from these surveys will be available next fall with suggestions for improvements. Next semester, the feedback will be discussed at a national ESN conference.