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 – and early in 2020 we’re doing it all again. The Wonkhe SUs European Study Tour in January will travel to the Baltics and Finland to see what we can learn from our cousins in the East.
The tour will begin at lunchtime in Vilnius on January 6th, and we’ll wrap up on Friday January 10th in Helsinki. We’ll begin the tour in Lithuania which has 23 universities (we won’t get to them all), SUs that work on employability and timetabling and a National Union focussed on student mental health. We’ll then travel to Latvia – where there are student fraternities and sororities and campaigns on intercity transport discounts.
When we get to Estonia we’ll definitely be visiting the Estonian Student Union House – established by students who studied in the university in the second half of the 19th century. But after we’ve been on the ferry, we’ll end the week in Finland – where Helsinki Uni’s SU is one of the world’s richest student organizations – and at the centre of student politics since the 19th Century. We’ll also check out Finland’s student nations – student organisations where a large proportion of extra-curricular student activity takes place.
How does it work
SUs normally send an officer and a manager, although other combinations are allowed! You are responsible for booking flights and accommodation (both of which are fairly inexpensive at that time of year). We’ll book the (coach and ferry) travel in the countries, 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 ideas for making student lives and SUs better.
We’re still confirming some meetings but here’s what we expect to happen:
Monday 6 January
Flights to Vilnius can be found from around £30pp from London.
On the first day at Midday CET we’ll meet for the start of the tour in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Vilnius University was founded in 1579, and prides itself on being the oldest higher education institution in the country and among the oldest in the whole of Eastern Europe. Vilnius is europe’s “happiest city” where students are part of a close-knit community of enthusiastic professionals and entrepreneurs.
We’ll meet the National Lithuanian Student Union, the Students’ Representative Bodies of Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius University and the Gediminas Technical University, as well as the Lithuanian Students’ Sports association.
We’ll then travel by coach to Kaunas, Lithuania’s “student city”:
Kaunas accommodation options run at between £35 and £50:
Tuesday 7 January
In the morning the coach will take us to the Kaunas University of Technology to meet the SU, and we’ll then travel to Šiauliai in Latvia where we’ll visit the Šiauliai University Students’ Club. After lunch we’ll take in the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies SU, and take the bus to Turiba University to meet its Student Council, before travelling to Riga centre. We’ll also meet with the Latvian NUS in the evening.
Riga accommodation options run from £20:
Wednesday 8 January
On Wednesday we’ll take the bus from Riga to the Students’ Council of the University of Latvia, and then travel to the University of Tartu where we’ll spend the afternoon exploring their student “corporations”, which handle much student social life. We’ll then travel to Tallinn in Estonia to meet with the Federation of Estonian Student Unions.
Talinn Accommodation options can be found from under from £30:
Thursday 9 January
We’ll then take the bus from central Riga to the Tallinn University of Technology SU. We’ll then take the ferry to Helsinki in Finland, where we’ll meet Aalto University’s Student Union and the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL).
The ferry costs around £20pp
Helsinki accommodation options (for two nights) can be found from under from around £120:
Friday 10 January
On the final day we’ll take the bus to the University of Turku where we’ll meet the SU, and then spend the afternoon exploring the University of Helsinki’s “Student Nations” = before a final evening in Helsinki.
Saturday 11 January
Time to return to the UK. Flights from Helsinki to London can be found from £30pp
How much will it all cost?
An indication of flight costs can be found above, and we expect the coach costs to come in at a maximum of £150pp. As you can see above we expect accommodation for the week to cost between £120pp and £180pp depending on options taken. There are then meals to be purchased, but the total per person should be possible on around £500-£600pp.
What do we do next
We are hoping to confirm the coach booking by Friday 25th October so we will need ideally each SU to confirm participation by then. Do let Jim know if you have any questions.