The ESNsurvey 2006 aimed at exploring the issue of the exchange students’ rights. Main organiser of the research was Erasmus Student Network and the main partner of the project was Università Bocconi from Italy. The research was conducted from May to July 2006. More than 12,000 exchange students from Europe, as well as foreigners studying at European universities filled in the online questionnaire. Quantitative results are accompanied by the qualitative data – descriptions of students’ experience.

Nowadays, more and more students decide to spend a part of their studies at a foreign university. Even if they are a natural element of contemporary university, they sometimes receive a differentiated treatment. Their rights and privileges may differ from the ones of local students or even other exchange students.

The mission of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is to foster mobility under the principle of students helping students. Therefore, one area of activity of ESN concentrates on the evaluation of the quality of student exchange. The ESNsurvey project, which took place already in 2005 and 2006, aims at analysing the situation of exchange students in Europe and creating practical recommendations for stakeholders. The analysis includes all exchange students in Europe: those who studied abroad through the Erasmus Programme and those who went abroad through other schemes.

In this report, after describing the characteristics of the respondents and their motivation for studying abroad, we concentrate on the analysis of the situation of exchange students’ rights in Europe. We look at issues such as: recognition of academic and non-academic achievements from abroad, migration and visa issues, fees, financial support and others. We examine whether the Erasmus University Charter, signed by the institutions participating in Erasmus exchange is being respected. Additionally, the last chapters describe students’ satisfaction with stay in a foreign country and satisfaction with support of ESN and other student organisations. 

Key findings

Students’ characteristics

The respondents of this questionnaire went abroad mostly through the Erasmus Programme (91%). Highest numbers of students came from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. Erasmus students came from less privileged socio-economic background comparing with non-Erasmus students: they have parents with lower educational attainment, and the income of their families is lower as well. Still, when it comes to the family financial situation, only 9% of respondents described their family’s income as below the country’s average.

Students’ motivation

The two most important reasons for students to go abroad were: to have new experiences and to practice a foreign language – nearly 80% of respondents said these two reasons were very important. The least important were: to be independent, to improve academic knowledge and to enhance future employment perspectives. The two student groups with different motivations were identified as: career-oriented and experience-oriented. Female respondents, students whose family income is lower than country’s average, students who were older while starting stay abroad and students from Central and Eastern Europe were more often career-oriented.

Exchange students’ rights

Recognition: About half of the respondents (52%) had all their courses recognized by their home university after coming back from abroad. 28% had most of the courses recognized, 13% only a few courses. 7% of students did not receive any recognition. Problems with recognition are most important in the new Member States of the European Union as well as in Germany, Greece and UK. 28% of respondents lost a semester of their studies at their home university because they went on exchange. Free choice of courses: 79% of respondents were able to freely choose courses at their host university.

Language issues

More Erasmus than non-Erasmus students were offered the opportunity to participate in a language course before their stay abroad. 27% of Erasmus students said that all courses at the university were in English, comparing to 37% of non-Erasmus.

Fees and tuition

About half of the students did not have to pay any fees (56% of Erasmus respondents and 44% of non-Erasmus respondents). Non-Erasmus students declared that the fees were favourable for the local students, whereas Erasmus students more often believed that they had to pay similar fees or that they have been treated favourably.

Financial situation

The grant that students received covered only partially the overall expenses abroad. 74% of students covered their additional expenses with the support of their parents. Parents from Southern European countries and Belgium supported their children extensively. In Northern European countries a lot of students took a loan e.g. in Sweden 45%.

Standard of living

Most of students believed their standard of living is similar to the standard of living of the local students (64%). For the respondents from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and other new EU countries, the standard of living of local students was often higher or much higher.

Provision of information

Students were not satisfied with provision of information at home university – they rated it as 3 (measured on the scale from 1 – very dissatisfied to 5 – very satisfied). The least satisfied were students from Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

Unjust treatment

7% of students stated that their host university or their host country institutions treated them unjustly. 19.5% of students felt discriminated during their stay abroad, mostly because they were foreigners (8%).

Satisfaction with stay

Most of the students (98%) declared that they would recommend going abroad to their friends. Students felt more positive about their stay than about their studies. While 61% of the students were very satisfied and 32% rather satisfied with their stay, the respective values for satisfaction with studies were 27% and 47%. Students were most satisfied with atmosphere of the city and country where the university was located and with social life. At the same time they were least satisfied with their financial situation and information they have received from their home university.

Satisfaction with ESN

Most of the students were satisfied with the services of ESN and other student organisations (nearly 70% declared that they were either very satisfied or rather satisfied). Respondents rated ESN and other student organisations in a similar way. Students were most satisfied with social aspects of ESN help. The satisfaction was lower with problem-solving aspects and with helping in getting in contact with local students.


Authors: Seweryn Krupnik and Ewa Krzaklewska

Note: ESNSurvey 2012 was renamed to 2013 according to the year of publication of the booklets and not to the publication of the questionnaire.

The Project

The ESNSurvey is the biggest regular European research project planned and carried out entirely by students for students. It is conducted annually and surveys students at higher education institutions. ESN shares the results with the main stakeholders in higher education and mobility programmes.

ESNSurvey aims at:

  • Exploring current issues connected to academic and non-academic mobility and education.
  • Gettting a better insight into student issues in order to represent their real needs.