An opportunity to engage, learn and develop: Our European Study tours in 2024

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

Livia Scott is Partnerships Coordinator at Wonkhe

There’s never been a more important time for UK SUs to nurture links with Europe – and our partners around the continent have much to offer to aid the development of student representation, democracy and services in the student interest.

Back in 2017 a group of SU officers and managers toured around Scandinavia on an extraordinary and magical five day journey packed full of lessons and learning – and since then we’ve organised tours to Scandinavia, the Baltics and the Low Countries.

So in 2024 we’re doing it all again. Our 5 day tour in January will travel to Latvia and Finland, we’ll do 24 hours in Dublin to learn from our friends in Ireland, and over Easter we’re off to Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.

Details below are provisional – and we’re expecting demand to be high, so please don’t book travel or accommodation yet. If you’re keen to come, we do need an expression of interest now – and we’ll then confirm the details of what you need to do next early next month.

Why and how

We’re pretty confident that this will be the best bit of training and development spend you’ll make this year. Participants will:

  • Engage with multiple delivery structures for student activities and SU volunteers and staffing
  • See a range of models for democratic structures, including elections and policy making
  • Generate new ideas for campaigning, collaboration and influencing in the student interest
  • Learn about new types of regulation over student voice and the student condition
  • Identify different ways to do belonging, student activities and employability
  • Have the chance to network with other SUs

SUs normally send an elected officer and a manager. You are responsible for booking flights and accommodation (both of which are fairly inexpensive at that time of year). We book the in-country travel, plan the itinerary and set up the meetings with the local and national SUs.

It’s an amazing opportunity to spend time with other SU officers and managers, build links with European counterparts and bring back endless ideas for making student lives and SUs better.

Latvia and Finland: January 8th to 12th, 2024

Travelling on Sunday January 7th, the tour will begin on Monday January 8th in Riga – where we’ll meet up with SUs, the National Union in Latvia and even the sororities and fraternities that organise in the area. We’ll learn about skills seminars, freshers camps, curriculum modernisation, student civic engagement and their work with international students.

We’ll then board the bus and cross the border into Estonia, travelling to Tartu – where we’ll find out more about an exciting student city project, a foundation focussed on developing student activity, the way that students are engaging with politicians and new perspectives on student programme evaluation.

The following morning we’ll travel to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, where we’ll talk to SUs and the national union to find out more about guarantees on student representation and rights, the way that subsidiary student councils work, and how policy development happens.

We’ll then catch a ferry to Finland, where we’ll first travel to Turku to meet SUs that operate restaurants, engage alumni and engage students with wings. Then after an overnight stay we’ll travel to Tampere where urban advocacy and student tutoring are a big part SU activity, and then to Hämeenlinna where overalls, credits for involvement and a unique way to organise courses will provide food for thought.

Then we’ll travel to Helsinki – where over the final two days we’ll meet two more national unions, find out how belonging is nurtured by the Fins, see their vision for a student city and visit the world’s richest SU – as well as learning more about university committee representation, democratic structures, subject associations and even sauna rentals.

We’d expect the cost of flights and accommodation to come in at around £600 depending on where you fly from and where you stay, with the in-country travel fee of £150 on top of that (that covers the coach and we spend and excess on meals). You’ll also need some spending money for additional meals etc.

24 hours in Ireland: Tuesday 26th February, 2024

Travelling on the Sunday or early on the Monday, we’ll spend time with the Union of Students in Ireland, and meet multiple SUs around a city grappling with an acute accommodation crisis. We’ll also look at work on accreditation for reps and volunteers, democratic structures, innovative student buildings and approaches to peer support and wellbeing.

Assuming a two night stay, we’d expect the cost of flights and accommodation to be around £300pp – and as we’re just in one city for this one, apart from public transport costs there’s no additional transport fees. You will however need additional cash for meals.

Croatia, Slovenia and Austria: 16th and 18th April, 2024

Travelling to Zagreb on Tuesday 15th, we’ll begin on the Wednesday by interacting with Croatia’s national union and engaging with SUs on housing and employment rights and student ombuds schemes.

We’ll then jump on the bus and travel to Ljubljana, where we’ll meet Slovenia’s national union and multiple SUs, examining a fascinating city-wide student facility and discussing transport, support for student clubs and the country’s student position act that gets costs down for students.

After an overnight stay we’ll then travel to Maribor in the north of the country where we’ll discuss a projects approach to student life, subsidised meals and ways to engage student parents. We’ll then board the bus, cross the border and travel up to Graz in Austria – where we’ll visit a visionary student-centred campus and learn about service centres for students, faculty councils, subsidised student housing and the way the Austrians do student democracy.

Depending on where you’re travelling from and accommodation options we’d expect travel to come in at around £400pp for this one – with the bus fee at around £125 (excess spent on meals). You’ll also need some additional for meals in-country.

What is the business case?

We’ve uploaded an example business case for use internally here. The feedback from previous trips suggests it’s the best bit of development/training spend you’ll make all year.

What do we do next

Ideally we will need to confirm coach bookings and that we have sufficient numbers on each trip to proceed by Friday 20th October so it would helpful if SUs could confirm interest by then – we’ll then allocate for others joining later on first come, first served. Don’t book flights or accomm until we have confirmed with you! We also may need to ration places – there are strict limits on each trip. Let us know now if you have any questions.

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