The significance of universities and students for democracy and society
The role universities play in society is widely acknowledged and has often been underlined, for example by the European Commission in its European Higher Education Strategy, which was presented in January 2022. Equally well-documented is the fundamental willingness of students to contribute to and play an active role in democratic processes. Numerous studies, most recently Understanding the Experience & Needs of Exchange Students in Challenging Times, published by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in 2022, confirm this. Over half the surveyed students (who came from various European countries) expressed an interest in engaging with other incoming or outgoing students after their period abroad. To do this, they said they would like to have relevant information and support for possible activities, but also official recognition, for example through a reference in their Learning Agreement or at least in their degree certificate.
Which brings us back to the universities. Student engagement concerns not just students, but indeed universities too; they have to take a closer look at the issue and make the student body mor aware of it. This ultimately benefits not just students, who gain valuable (life) experiences through their engagement, but also universities. By supporting student engagement, they can enhance their own profiles.