The International Student Mobility Charter was developed in response to the significant increase in the number of students moving abroad to study and their ensuing need for improved rights and welfare.
This need was accentuated recently when more than 2000 students faced potential removal from the UK after the London Metropolitan University had its licence to teach and recruit students from outside the EU revoked. The students involved were required to find an alternative institution to sponsor them; failing this, they were told that they would have to leave the UK.
Gudrun Paulsdottir, outgoing President of the European Association for International Education highlights the issue: “With this constant increase in the mobile student population, the increasing need for qualified and educated people all over the world, and the lack of funding available for higher education on a national level, there is also an increase in incidence where students, higher education institutions and countries suffer from decisions made by partners, their governments or other external stakeholders.”
According to UNESCO, by 2025 the number of international students is expected to rise to 8 million. With such a large number of students moving abroad to study, there is a definite need for governments, education institutions, and international agencies to endorse and support a charter outlining the rights of international students.
The International Student Mobility Charter covers concerns such as equity of treatment, integration of international students, portability and continuity of funding, visas and formal requirements, quality assurance of institutions, and other important issues affecting mobile students. Developed by a working group of international higher education associations which was led by the EAIE, the charter is aimed at fostering greater endorsement from key stakeholders in international education with the overarching objective of keeping students safe and protected during their study abroad periods. A network of higher education associations officially agreed the charter during the 2012 EAIE Conference.
The EAIE encourages other institutions and associations to endorse this charter. The entire charter can be downloaded from the EAIE website.
International Student Mobility Charter
In 2010 more than 4 million students were studying outside their home countries.
According to UNESCO this number may rise to 8 million international higher education students by 2025. This globally mobile population of mainly young people seeking education represents an investment in crucial assets for sending countries, assets that are essential for future development, prosperity and welfare, when students return home with increased knowledge and skills prepared for global citizenship. For receiving countries, these students bring cultural and intellectual diversity to the institutions and the countries they visit, often representing also a source of revenue for those institutions and communities, and in some cases a source of skilled migrants’ post-education experience.
Consequently, it should be in the interest of any country to facilitate mobility in higher education. This implies that every country and higher education institution needs to recognize the complexity of mobility and have a framework of support for both incoming and outgoing students.
At the same time there is a need to secure international students’ rights and welfare. In some countries and communities, international students have suffered from discrimination on grounds of race, religion and culture, gender and have been confronted with circumstances on and off campuses, which pose a threat to their safety, dignity and security.
The demand for knowledge is global. All countries and cultures are in need of an increased level of knowledge, for many different reasons. This is a call to institutions of education, cities, regions and countries to recognize this need and to make efforts to facilitate knowledge mobility, in particular knowledge mobility linked to the global movement of students.
While respecting the integrity of education institutions, taking account of their diverse strategies and academic and national cultures and their roles in their communities, we call on governments and education institutions, as well as international agencies and associations of international education, to endorse, support and promote the following:
1. Equity of treatment
The civil and human rights of international students must be understood and protected, and measures taken by governments and higher education institutions to safeguard against discrimination.
2. Inter- cultural competences
In order to improve the quality of education and the integration of international students in the respective host country, the inter-cultural competences of faculty and staff at every level of service and education must be welldeveloped and actively applied. Such competences include recognition of one’s own cultural and national perspectives, an awareness and respect for other perspectives, and the ability to communicate successfully across cultural differences. With the same aim to enhance competences, mobile students should be given intercultural preparation and have access to advice on intercultural awareness as well as support with reintegration when they return home.
3. Integration of international students
When admitted to an education institution, international students are automatically also admitted to a country, a new community and its different culture. International students’ integration and interaction with the academic as well as the wider community needs to be actively facilitated to maximize the value for all stakeholders.
4. Opportunity to complete studies
International students should enjoy the same opportunities to complete their education, taking into account the same rules and regulations that are valid for local and national students.
5. Portability and continuity of funding
National student loans and grants should always be portable. Students on grants that cover tuition and expenses while studying abroad should be provided with safeguards against arbitrary withdrawal of their funding.
6. Student status
A student’s status in both host and home countries should be protected with safeguards against arbitrary withdrawal of study rights or temporary visitor rights.
7. Visas and formal requirements
In order to promote global student mobility and in compliance with national security priorities, transparent visa application procedures and swift processing of student visa applications are needed in all countries.
Information on study and research opportunities, facilities and all aspects about entering and living in a respective host country should be open and easily accessible to all education seekers and other stakeholders. Students, their families, grant and student loan agencies, home institutions and schools and governments should all have easy access to relevant, adequate and accurate information, in order that students and sponsors can make informed choices and have realistic expectations.
9. Student rights support
In order to ensure quality in the provision of services for international students and to protect their rights, an independent authority both in their home and host country should be available on a local, regional or national level to which students can turn for a resolution of their legitimate problems, disputes or concerns or, if necessary, for legal advice pertaining to their studies, status and welfare.
10. Quality assurance
In order to benefit from global knowledge capacity, well-developed national and institutional quality assurance systems need to be in place. Institutions of higher education should meet agreed standards of accreditation in all aspects of their activities. Quality assurance systems should include all dimensions of international higher education - administrative, academic, extra-curricular programs and support as well as social care.