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Student mobility measures in the aquatic sciences: the development of the AQUA-TNET Education Gate

Abstract

The paper presents the student mobility activities undertaken by the EU Thematic Network AQUA-TNET over the last 18 years. Early work on listing and describing European aquaculture courses, and clear identification of obstacles to mobility in the aquaculture domain provided a sound basis for its mobility group’s activities in developing and achieving its aims. These consisted of the construction and maintenance of a Web portal using Google maps combined with up-to-date information on all universities in the network, carrying out a survey into and report on best practice in mobility and providing a detailed mobility guide for students. Statistical results from the expanded AQUA-TNET Education Gate portal give a good indication of the usefulness and success of the group’s mobility activities.

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Notes

  1. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-87-78_en.htm.

  2. ERASMUS—FACTS, FIGURES & TRENDS: The European Union support for student and staff exchanges and university cooperation in 2011/2012.

  3. Statistics published in July 2014 http://ec.europa.eu/education/tools/statistics_en.htm.

  4. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.2_database_of_partner_organisations___institutes_available_for_pilot_mobility_exchanges.pdf (accessed 13/09/2014).

  5. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.15_database_of_partner_organisations___institutes_available_for_mobility_exchanges.pdf (accessed 23/09/2014).

  6. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.3_database_vocational_mobility_exchanges.pdf (accessed 23/09/14).

  7. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.13_template_for_movers.pdf (accessed 23/09/2014).

  8. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.1_Potential_for_mobility.pdf (accessed 23/09/2014).

  9. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.6_Report_on_validation_challenges.pdf.

  10. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.7_Action_plan_for_trying_to_address_the_challenges.pdf.

  11. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.13_template_for_movers.pdf.

  12. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.28_-_survey_on_the_guide_for_student_mobility.pdf.

  13. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.14_Protocol_of_recognition.pdf.

  14. http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.10_finalised_action_plan.pdf.

  15. https://www.cut.ac.cy/digitalAssets/110/110698_Erasmus_Student_Charter.pdf.

  16. Annex 5—http://www.archive.aquatnet.com/client/files/4.11_Pilot_Scheme_Plan.pdf?PHPSESSID=0cbfdcb19ca8720747a0a48af33c6bda).

Abbreviations

AQUAEXCEL:

Aquaculture Infrastructures for Excellence in European Fish Research

ECTS:

European Credit Transfer System

EHEA:

European Higher Education Area

EQF:

European Qualifications Framework

EUA:

European University Association

FP 7:

7th Framework Research Programme

HE:

Higher Education

JSP:

Joint Study Programme

NOVA:

Nordic Forestry, Veterinary and Agricultural University Network

VET:

Vocational Education and Training

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the members of the AQUA-TNET Mobility core group for their work which enabled the AQUA-TNET Education Gate to be set up, developed and enriched, in particular Ertug Duzgunes, Katalin Szentes, Concetta Messina and Stavros Chatzifotis, and also AnnaMaria Rekecki, Gonçalo Santos, Türker Bodur, Chris Blake, Nazli Kasapoglu, Maren Ortiz, David Basset, Rob Van de Ven and Sonya Uzunova.

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Correspondence to Margaret Eleftheriou.

Appendix

Appendix

Obstacles hindering student mobility

Rights of residence

Students in vocational training have right of residence in a country provided they can meet the conditions laid down by Community Directive 93/94 on the right of residence for students. For stays of over 3 months, students must apply to the authorities of the host Member State for a residence permit. There are sometimes much stricter regulations related to serious questions of transnational security. These should not adversely affect the mobility of students, as long as the individuals concerned are well identified and covered by the home educational system.

Compulsory contributions

These include both tax and social security contributions. Differences can exist in the way grants are treated for tax purposes in different Member States; in some countries, grants are regarded as income and subject to personal income tax; while in others, grants are classed as a reimbursement of expenses and not as taxable income. It is possible for persons engaged in training to be taxed on their grants by both the country of origin and the host country. Students are, without exception, exempt from taxation in the host country on sums from abroad.

Social security

Students are covered if they are insured under the social security scheme of one of the Member States as workers or as a member of the family of an employed worker. This also covers them for immediate healthcare requirements (by means of form “E111”).

Recognition, certification and validation

The lack of recognition and of transparency of training diplomas/certificates, and the lack of certification or validation of placement periods in another Member State can be a handicap to people participating in mobility programmes. Under the SOCRATES programme, academic recognition was a prerequisite for mobility and therefore generally obtained. The ECTS is entirely based on cooperation by universities of their own accord to facilitate academic recognition of periods of study. Recently, and stemming from the development of the European Higher Education Area, transparency and recognition are approaching a general agreement. In addition, the AQUA-TNET network worked continually and specifically in this area of common recognition, and a basis for the identification of what are core competencies, required skills and specialised knowledge in aquaculture reached a significant degree of agreements between European partners.

Territorial restriction of national grants

The territorial restriction of most national grants makes it difficult for students travelling abroad to transfer their grants. In most Member States, it is impossible to transfer the grant in order to undertake a full course of study abroad. However, it is now possible for students to obtain loans which will allow them to proceed with ERASMUS exchanges and placements.

Inadequate financial support

A common cause for complaint is the inadequacy of the prime grant aid. The limited nature of the funds provided by grants has resulted in some students being interested and enthusiastic about taking up placements abroad but being unable to do so because of an overall lack of alternative supporting resources.

Administrative obstacles

There are also a number of administrative obstacles that may limit participation.

  • Structuring of the academic year: aquaculture is very seasonal, and certain types of training can only occur during specific times of the year.

  • Examinations: students benefiting from mobility may not be in the host country when examinations are held or cannot take it in their home institutions.

  • Periods of training not incorporated in the course curriculum: some Member States do not recognise the work placements of students undergoing vocational training as an integral part of the course curriculum; consequently, periods of work experience must be combined with holidays or carried out at the end of the academic year.

Linguistic and cultural obstacles

The lack of knowledge of a foreign language remains one of the main obstacles to mobility. Nevertheless, there are some countries with a long tradition of English language competence, and it often seems as if this is a major factor determining or modulating the flow of students to certain countries. In the aquaculture area, this is a relevant issue as remote countries such as Norway and Greece have obvious interest as developed aquaculture countries. In addition, even assuming that English knowledge may be widespread in particular countries, lectures and activities at graduate levels may take place in the local language. One of the AQUA-TNET partners created online language courses in English, French, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish, along with content modules, in order to alleviate this problem (www.pescalex.org).

Practical obstacles

These obstacles often prevent the achievement of high-quality mobility and sometimes discourage participants or reduce their opportunities once on placement.

  • Lack of general information (host organisation, living conditions, training opportunities)

  • Lack of host companies: companies may be unwilling/unable to accept students who require a high degree of supervision

  • Lack of suitable or affordable accommodation (levels of rents, deposits, etc.) and students leaving for short- to medium-term placements also have difficulty in giving up accommodation in their country of origin

  • Students must often take out additional insurance at their own expense to cover cost of repatriation in the event of serious illness, etc.

  • Family and/or personal commitments may have a negative impact on mobility.

  • Bank and exchange charges can consume a considerable part of an individual grant, and procedural delays also inflate the cost to the student.

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Tort, L., Eleftheriou, M. Student mobility measures in the aquatic sciences: the development of the AQUA-TNET Education Gate. Aquacult Int 23, 787–803 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10499-015-9896-5

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Keywords

  • AQUA-TNET Education Gate
  • AQUA-TNET Student Exchange Guide
  • ERASMUS Student Charter
  • Mobility
  • Student exchanges
  • Traineeships