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.
Over the past few years we’ve toured the Baltics and Scandinavia, and early in 2023 we’re doing it all again. The Wonkhe SUs European Study Tour in January will travel to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany – where there’s a whole bunch of fascinating things to see, discuss and learn.
This year, following feedback from last time around we’ve built in some more time to reflect and network with other SUs on the trip, as well as some more “down time” – although it will still be a pretty intense few days!
For a shorter trip and tighter budgets, we’re also running a Scandinavian weekender (although it’s during the week) the following week in January.
Why and how
- 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 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.
Low countries and Germany study tour: Itinerary
We’re still confirming some meetings but here’s the sort of thing we expect to happen:
Monday 9th January
At the time of writing flights to Brussels can be found from as little as £25pp from the UK, the Eurostar is around £50 and FlixBus runs a service from London to the city for around £20. You can also fly in early on Tuesday morning.
Hotels in Brussels are around £60 pp per night.
Tuesday 10th January
On the first day in the morning we’ll meet for the start of the tour in Brussels, where we’ll meet with the Flemish Association of Students (VVS) and student representative organisations in the city. Then at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel we’ll learn about their “baptismal” study associations, how the university’s student run council for student services operates, its student run study skills initiatives and the way they induct new students – as well as innovative campaigns on harassment.
We’ll spend the evening in Antwerp where we’ll visit STAN, a student hub for and run by students, and meet Unifac, an umbrella organisation that organises a huge “Great Confusion Quiz”, pre-freshers “exploration days” to build belonging and a week long cultural events festival. We’ll also see how its department level study associations work.
Hotels in Antwerp are running at around £50pp per night.
Wednesday 11th January
On Wednesday morning we’ll then travel to Utrecht to meet up with the Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg – the largest national student organisation in the Netherlands. We’ll then find out about the country’s student participation laws, meet the chamber of associations and the other national union!), and find out more about both its the city-wide welcome and its multiple partnership organisations for student rights, housing, fundraising and more.
We’ll travel to and stay overnight in Amsterdam after exploring student organisations in the capital including ASVA, which represents students across two universities and leads on both student activities and housing, and the historical Amsterdam Student Corps, which plays a key role in belonging and careers for students.
Hotels in Amsterdam are running at around £70pp per night.
Thursday 12th January
In the morning we’ll travel North to Groningen to see the oldest student association in the country – which has an extraordinary history, building, and a huge range of student activities, and who’ve recently had a Sushi scandal.
We’ll then travel to Enschede where Twente SU “kicks in” its students, offers up activism grants, operates a whole range of interesting facilities and has a large collection of student entrepreneurship projects and events. We’ll then stay the night in Münster in Germany where we’ll meet an SU with its own halls, conference venue and hotel!
Hotels in Münster are running at around £60pp per night.
Friday 13th January
Then on our final day in Germany to we’ll visit a students’ association in Essen that runs counselling and housing, and in Dusseldorf, where the SU operates cafes, cultural events and even childcare for students.
Hotels in Dusseldorf are running at around £60pp per night.
Saturday 14th January
Time to return to the UK, or a day or two to bolt on for personal time if you wish. Flights from Dusseldorf, Cologne and Bonn can be found for as little as £40.
How much will it all cost?
An indication of flight costs can be found above. We expect coach costs to come in at a maximum of £200pp, with any excess collected into a kitty and used to pay for meals. As you can see above we expect accommodation for the week to cost around £300 depending on options taken. Therefore the total per person should be possible on around £600 – £650 (excluding expenses) depending on where you’re flying from.
This shorter trip is for those with together time and financial budgets. Same principles apply – ideally a manager + officer, you book accommodation and flights and we organise the rest. This trip will begin in Gothenburg on Thursday 5th January, take in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmo and end in Copenhagen, travelling back on Saturday 7th January. We expect costs to come in at around £350 pp.
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
We will need to confirm coach bookings and that we have sufficient numbers on each trip to proceed by Friday 28th October so we will need each SU to confirm participation (at least in principle) by then. Don’t book flights or accomm until we know we have the numbers! It’s also first come first served – there are strict limits on each trip.