We, the students of Europe, hold these rights to be self-evident.
We believe that education is a right not a privilege; that students are equal partners in education; and that education has a societal, personal, cultural and an economic objective. Every student is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Charter without regard to their field, mode of study or methods of programme delivery.
"Every student is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Charter, free from any form of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of political conviction, religion, ethnic or cultural origin, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic standing or any disability they may have."
The rights laid down in this Charter stem from the fundamental human right for education.
In this document, "students" refers to all those working towards a qualification in higher education.
Access to Higher Education
- Everyone has the right to an inclusive, high quality education free of charge.
Education is a basic human right, which empowers the individual to achieve his/her full potential. It must therefore be accessible to all and remain a public good. Education must then be free of charge, meaning that no tuition fees should be charged by higher education institutions. Students should have no other constraints than personal abilities. Also to ensure a high quality education, mechanisms have to be implemented in order to ensure this high quality. Finally, for education to be inclusive, study programmes must make it possible for students to cater to their particular aspirations and interests, including by making it possible for students to take courses or activities outside their main specialty.
- Everyone has the right to access correct information, in a transparent manner, on the content, outcome and requirements of an educational programme.
Today, students often don't know where to find information about the programmes they wish to enroll in. Therefore, strong efforts should be made in terms of communication and raising awareness among students on the importance of quality information. Every student has the right to access information on the requirements of the study programme, its content, its workload and its learning outcomes. This information must be readily available, easily accessible, constantly updated and reliable.
- Everyone has the right to free access to adequate means of support in order to take up, progress through and complete their educational programme.
It is not enough to have access to higher education; adequate means of support have to be available in order for students to succeed in their studies. Students face different obstacles in the course of their studies. Therefore, to help students succeed they have to be provided with adequate support and services. The student must have financial support when needed and access to student services.
- All students have the right to an education that is inclusive
Education must be accessible to all; therefore it needs to be inclusive. To ensure this inclusiveness, targeted support needs to be made available to students with special needs to enable them to participate in further and higher education on equal terms together with their fellow students. [Furthermore, to guarantee an inclusive education, higher education institutions have to allow broad education programs where students can choose classes from different fields and can integrate their extra-curricular activities].
We can get rid of the sentence in brackets and just put the emphasis on accessibility.
- All students have the right to have their backgrounds and experiences recognised as an important part of educational quality and to be able to make use of them.
All students should be considered as individuals having their own specificities, learning paths and experiences. This constitutes their backgrounds and they should be recognized by the higher education system. Thus, mature students, adult students, young students and foreign and exchange students, should have their prior learning recognized. Higher education must recognize that individuals can acquire knowledge in any formal or non-formal way and need to value this knowledge.
- All students have the right to an education imbued with different equality perspectives that improve the quality of education.
For education to be of high quality, it must be committed to the full development of the human personality. Therefore, higher education institutions must be places that allow multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue to promote and maintain peace, harmony and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.
- All students have the right to progress between cycles.
Access to education must be ensured for all levels and sectors of the education system. In order to achieve this, students must have adequate support to succeed and push forward their studies. The support can be financial, social and academic to ensure the progress between cycles to all students regardless their gender, religion, or social background. Recognition of prior learning and the recognition of the accomplished cycles of studies in any higher education institution is a key element to ensure this right.
- Everyone has the right to adequate counselling about their options before they choose a study programme.
Every student has the right to enroll in a study program. But in order to make a considered choice between the different programs, students need adequate counseling. This means that besides the general information students get, students should have access to a more individual approach to get the information they need according to their personal interests.
- All students have the right to apply to any institution without administrative, financial or physical restrictions.
Students should face no obstacles in accessing higher education. In order to achieve this, administrative constraints should not be more burdensome than necessary, no tuition fees should be charged, and targeted support needs to be made available to students with special needs. Students should be able to apply to all the institutions they wishe to apply at without facing a limited number of applications. Students must also be able to apply to higher education institutions in foreign countries without facing heavier constraints than the national students. All those measures are necessary to enable student participation at the chosen institution on equal terms together with their fellow students.
- All students have the right to organise themselves freely in legally recognised entities. Students must not suffer academic, financial or legal consequences stemming from such involvement.
The freedom to peaceful assembly and association as well as the freedom of opinion and expression are human rights and as such also apply to students and their organizations. To be legal, laws must be in place to regulate and ensure student self-governance. One has to take into account the fact that participation in student organization has several consequences that need to be recognized and managed by the higher education institution. Among the different consequences, we can identify psychological pressure, lowered grades, expulsions, imprisonment... Moreover, students must be able to report any suffering resulting from his involvement and have them resolved.
- All students have the right to co-governance in all decision making bodies and fora relevant to their education directly or through democratic representation.
Students or representatives elected by them are to be involved as equal partners in all governance structures of higher education institutions and fora that affect their education, whether they are of an academic or managerial nature. To be treated as equal partners, representatives have to have the same influence than the other partners and must be ensured to have the right to speak and vote on all issues before the body. Moreover, student participation in decision making bodies has to be representative of the student population with their different views and needs.
- Students have the right to be informed about all higher education affairs in a transparent manner.
Students or representatives elected by them have to be informed in a timely manner about any developments, documents or decisions, which directly affect their education, whether on faculty, institutional, federal, national, regional or international level by the competent authority. This is to allow students or the representatives elected by them to form an opinion in a timely manner and represent their views in the competent fora.
- All students have the right to have their opinion considered as that of a stakeholder on equal footing in higher education.
Students or representatives elected by them are to be involved as equal partners in any governance structure or forum on faculty or institutional, federal, national or international level. Their representation in terms of numbers of representatives represented in the structure or forum and their input must not be valued any higher or lower than that of any other stakeholder represented in the same structure or forum.
- All students have the right to freely express themselves and this should not be limited to academic matters.
Students are an integral part of society and as such their academic and social life is influenced by society. For this reason students must be free to address any issue that may influence their academic and social wellbeing and to represent and defend their academic, economic, social and cultural rights.
Social Aspects of Studies
- All students have the right to adequate counselling and support on their wellbeing; on how to successfully complete their education; and on how to prepare themselves for integration into the labour market.
The process of learning and enhancing the knowledge gained must be correlated with the needs of the society, but first of all, with students' needs. This process seeks to help student to a better understanding on what competences they have, in which domain they fit best and how to transform knowledge in practice. A cabinet with a targeted mission, e.g. choosing career and consulting, can respond to students' need in matter of integration into the labour market, but also for counseling to personal development, more focused on ones competences and abilities.
- All students have the right to adequate social support that meets their needs on an individual basis.
Universities must provide, besides education, different social services in order to ensure access and a successful platform of personal development for all student bodies. Social support is diversified and unlimited. But at the minimum higher education institutions must provide scholarships for students from a lower socio-economic background, student housing,medical help, subsidy for transport, food, counseling services, mobility, and access to internet and libraries. These are tools for proper education which each student can ask for.
- All students have the right to financial independence.
Financial independence refers to the fact that students must not be entitled to a commitment to pay for education. However financial independence is not achieved as a lot of students have a job besides studying. The high cost of education leads students to focus more on earning money to sustain themselves than on succeeding in their study programme. Moreover those jobs are unrelated with their domain in education. Therefore, higher education institutions should not ask for tuition fees and must ensure students all the financial support for learning and living in good conditions
- All students have the right to a free and fair appeal against any act which they feel to be discriminatory.
Being considered as equal partner in the system of education, students are not to be discriminated in the compound of higher education institutions. In case of any discriminative act, students should have the possibility to reclaim it at a fair commission (comprising student representatives) dealing with ethical behavior within the university. The case must be resolved in a reasonable timeframe set by the university. It is also necessary that the university sets the procedure, put it into regulation and inform students about it.
- All students have the right to a space for social interaction.
Social interaction is a mechanism through which students communicate and can become active as a group in the student movement. Space for social interaction is needed to enhance more student participation in higher education institutions and to develop social skills that will be necessary for each individual to contribute in the society. Social interaction contributes to a better understanding of the others.
- All students have the right to specific social support related to their educational mobility.
A service offered, never comes alone. Higher education institutions must sustain the services they offer and provide for it all the necessary means to concretize educational mobility. If a university has programmes of mobility, the institution is continuously responsible with students accessing those programmes, meaning that it should keep in plan all the mechanisms involved. Students have the right to ask for all the support needed to complete a program as the university is fully responsible in providing complete package of actions for students.
Academic aspects of studies
- All students have the right to be evaluated or graded solely on their academic performance including extra-curricular activities as being considered as part of their academic programme.
Personal academic performance and achievements during the study period can be considered as the only fair ground for evaluation (assessment). Students' personal characteristics (age, nationality, gender, etc.) cannot be treated as adequate criteria for evaluation. Evaluation procedure should focus not only on knowledge accumulated, but also on skills and attitudes developed during a course of study. To allow and encourage students to develop such skills and attitudes outside of the formal academic framework study programmes should allow for flexible curricula, which allow for the selection of extra-curricular activities. Those extra-curricular activities should be recognized as a valuable contribution to the academic experience providing important knowledge and skills needed by students to play their part in our society. To achieve this consideration for recognizing prior/ non-formal and informal learning is required.
- All students have the right to a free and fair appeal against any decision related to their studies.
In a democratic, open academic community when a doubt arises regarding an assessment being carried out in a satisfactory manner, the student has the right to a fair appeal without fear of repercussion. Their appeal will be taken into consideration and a decision will be made without interference from a third party on any basis. The higher education institution needs to publicize the procedure and to provide a reasonable time frame to make a decision.
- All students have the right to a flexible study program.
Students as individuals are different from each other and have their own specificities. Higher education institutions need to take into account personal abilities, personal circumstances, expectations and living conditions (working students, students with children, students with disabilities, adult learners etc.).To make education available for all, further and higher education institutions must develop programmes of study that cater for different needs, such as part-time studies, distance programmes or evening or weekend lectures; or allow for flexibility for students to take responsibility for designing their study process in a way that meets their needs. Guidance and counseling services must be available at various periods during the day and week to support the student.
- All students have the right to teaching and learning environments that support and encourage the development of autonomous learning, critical thinking and personal growth.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality. Bearing in mind that education should empower students to be responsible for their learning path in a lifelong perspective. It is also crucial to enable students being (self) critical and (self) reflective when it comes both to study process and life.
- All students have the right to teaching and evaluation methods suitable to their mode of education.
Considering education as a process directed to the full development of the human personality means to understand education as a process that is student-centered. Consequently both the education process and the evaluation methods need to be reflective of that, need to correspond and need to be appropriate for the mode of education a student follows, i.e. on site studies, distance education or e-learning. When considering assessment procedures, the no-grading and no-rating approach should be endorsed to create an atmosphere free of competition among students or battles for outside approval and to encourage a positive co-operative environment amongst the student body.
- All students have the right to academic freedom of thought; and the freedom to challenge the knowledge that exists today.
Everybody has the right to freedom of opinion, to express them and to seek and impart information and ideas freely. This is especially true for education and research. One key aspect of further and higher education is develop academic and research capabilities, to formulate academic opinions and to communicate them in academic fora as well as in society at large. Providing a space for students to express themselves together with adequate feedback and support can encourage their motivation for a research-oriented study process.
- All students have the right to fair recognition of comparable qualifications.
To promote learning in a lifelong perspective and to allow for and promote mobility between different levels and sectors of education as well as between countries; the recognition of formal, non-formal and informal qualifications is of utmost importance. Fair recognition of qualifications means that holders of qualifications should have adequate access to the body that is responsible for assessing qualifications in the country, where they seek recognition of their qualifications. Furthermore their qualification should be deemed equivalent to federal or national qualifications or parts thereof for the purpose of entering into further or higher education or the labour market unless a substantial difference can be shown.
- All students have the right to a continuously reviewed and up-to-date programme.
A central element of the quality of an education programme is that its content is regularly reviewed and updated, that it takes into consideration the latest research in its field and integrates it into its teaching and research and that it is reflective of the changing needs of society at large.
- All students have the right to participate as equal partners in the continuous assessment and improvement of their educational programmes.
To ensure the quality of study programmes adequate quality assurance procedures have to be established at programme level and institutional level. Furthermore the standards and procedures of quality assurance agencies should be frequently reviewed. As stakeholder and equal partner in the educational process students need to be involved in all processes relating to quality assurance of further and higher education at all levels.
- All students have the right to free access to comprehensive and objective information on the quality of the programme and institution in which they wish to study or are already studying.
Information on the outcomes of quality assurance processes of any study programme need to be made freely available to current or prospective students so that they are in a position to make informed choices.
- All students have the right to have the grading of their academic work challenged by an external examiner.
The assessment of a student's academic work should be impartial and must not be influenced by a student's political conviction, religion, ethnic or cultural origin, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic standing or any disability they may have. To ensure impartiality in the process of grading, students should have the right to a revision of their academic work by an external examiner.
Right to privacy and access to knowledge and information
- All students have the right to be recognised for their academic work.
Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which they are the author. This is also true for the academic community.Students form part of the academic community and contribute substantially with their academic work to the research carried out at further and higher education institutions. Therefore students have the right to have their work recognized and marked as their own and as an original piece of research.
- All students have the right to privacy and the right to protection against misuse of personal information.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy. Any information provided by students to their further and higher education institution whether for administrative purposes, for the purpose of assessing and improving the quality of their programme or any assessment of their academic work as part of their programme must be protected against misuse by third parties.
- All students have the right to freely access and share knowledge with society as a whole.
Students have the right to freely make available their academic work to society as a whole if they wish to do so as well as to access any academic work or knowledge, which has been made accessible in the same way.
- All students have the right to teaching techniques and technologies based on the principle of open source.
Access to knowledge and information is a key element to a successful higher education. However, today this access of information is limited by its high cost. Students, as part of their programme, must not be obliged to purchase or use any particular technology or programme. Higher education institutions should use the principle of open source for students to access the information they need.