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EAIE charter advocates for overseas student rights

The European Association of International Education (EAIE) has unveiled an ambitious International Student Mobility Charter to raise awareness of international students’ rights around the world in response to the growing efforts of universities to increase overseas enrolments.

Paulsdottir, pictured speaking at the EAIE conference, wants to start a global discussion about international students' rights

Many countries have Tuition Assurance Schemes in place for some sectors but there is no global agreement or expectation of international students' rights

The charter, unveiled at the 2012 EAIE Conference last week, calls for transparent standards to protect international students’ fees and rights during their time abroad. EAIE said it was motivated by events such as the loss of Highly Trusted Sponsor status at London Metropolitan University last month, which forced 2,600 non-EU students to find alternative university places or face deportation.

Gudrun Paulsdottir, outgoing president of EAIE, told The PIE News: “International students are [classified] somewhere between a tourist and immigrant status, meaning that whatever happens, you have nothing that protects your right to actually stay and study.

“We’ve seen this in Libya, when Gaddafi disappeared. All of a sudden you had thousands of students all over the world with no funding… Students can also be subjected to very arbitrary decisions by universities or governments and have no possibility to take someone to court.”

The charter will define an ideal set of standards covering concerns such as equity of treatment, student integration on campus, transferability of study loans, and protection of student status in-country, in case of visa or host institution crisis. It covers 10 points: equity of treatment; intercultural competences; integration; opportunity to complete studies; continuation of funding; student status; visas; information; student rights and quality assurance.

Many countries have Tuition Assurance Schemes in place for some sectors or across various membership bodies (such as English UK, enacted this week) but there is no global agreement or expectation of international students’ rights.

“Australia has a council of universities that advises the government on these issues… that’s a dream scenario”

Paulsdottir said that she did not expect all universities to comply with the standards and that the main aim was to kick start a global discussion. However, she encouraged countries to follow the example of Australia, which has improved access to its legal system after a rise in crime against overseas students.

“I think [Australia] has come very, very far and they work in a very interesting way, with 41 action points delivered by a committee that the government and parliament accepted completely,” she said.

“And now they have a council of universities that advises the government on these issues. I mean that’s a dream scenario.”

A network of associations in international education have agreed to work with EAIE on the charter as well as the  International Association of Universities (IAU). EAIE promises to contact more global working organisations such as UNESCO and OECD, the latter having expressed interest. “We also want universities around the world to push from their side to their governments to strengthen this awareness,” Paulsdottir said.

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