Starting a global student movement

The students of the world are to be united under one banner.

A global student movement is approaching. In January, 17 student organizations met in Paris to discuss their common problems connected to higher education. They came to the conclusion that the students of the world have large and varied problems, but that they must front them together.

– The hindrances are different in every country. They could be financial, or related to sex or religion, but all in all, the issue is equal rights to education, and therefore there is a need for a global spokesman, says Olav Øye, member of the European Students’ Union’s (ESU) Working Group, where he works on the development of student democracies, amongst other things.

In Paris the participants concluded that student rights are being oppressed across the world. On the basis of this, a committee that will be subject to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is going to be established. Their job will be to defend the rights of students globally. The organizations will work with the following issues:

  • Availability: all students should have access to higher education, irrespective of race, religion, sex, culture, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background.
  • Quality control in higher education the world over.
  • Student rights in relation to university administration and authorities.
  • Student representation: the right to partake in and influence the higher education system at every level.

– Education solves crises

Executive for international affairs at the National Union of Students in Norway (NSU), Marte Sendstad, thinks that the initiative comes at the right time.

– Keeping in mind the financial crisis and the environmental crisis, it is more important than ever before that the young people of today are able to face the challenges of the future, and higher education is the key, she says.

Towards UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education, which will take place this summer, the plan is to continue to discuss which issues the organization should front, forge alliances, and prepare discussions on how education can solve the problems that the world is facing.

– The global higher education policy agenda is to be set at this conference. This is where we have the opportunity to put forward our suggestions to authorities and organizations, Øye states.

Alongside this, work is being done to establish a global ombudsman under the UNESCO umbrella.

– This will function as a place where breaches of student rights can be dealt with, no matter where in the world the violation has taken place. It is important that there are other institutions besides local student organizations that can deal with infringements of student rights, Øye says.