Euro student charter stalls

July 28, 2000

Rome

A week-long meeting in Rome of more than 300 students from 105 European universities last week failed to meet its objective of drawing up an international "Magna Carta" of student rights.

Paid for by Europe's largest university, La Sapienza, the meeting followed a similar event in Alcal , Spain, a year ago, when the ambitious project was first conceived.

Although a series of often heated and intense rounds of talks, punctuated with lunches, dinners and entertainment, failed to produce agreement on a definitive document, all the delegates, who sit on administrative or consultative bodies of their own universities, signed a common, non-definitive document and agreed that important progress had been made, and that another conference will be held in a year's time.

Enrico Ambrosi, one of the Rome organisers, said: "We have all agreed on three basic points: the essential defence of the right to a higher education, the harmonisation and integration of credits systems throughout Europe and free access to all Europe's universities for all European students.

"By this we mean real and total mobility. In addition, we are working towards the establishment of a European parliament of student representatives, to work in parallel with the periodic meetings of Europe's higher education ministers."

Masco Romeo, also from La Sapienza, detected a north-south conflict. "The northern Europeans seemed very concerned with establishing rigid procedural mechanisms, without which they felt lost, while the Italians and Spaniards felt comfortable with a looser, more flexible organisation.

"But this is certainly not a serious problem. We have discovered, incidentally, that language barriers, which were one of our greatest worries, are easily overcome."

Geoff Medniuk and Alex Papakyriacou, from the University of Kent, agreed the week had been frustrating and thought better organisation would have yielded more results.

"However, as far as networking with other students is concerned, this conference has been a success. We have also established a significant body of students' rights, and this cannot be underestimated," said Mr Medniuk.

"We also all agree that European integration, in higher education as in other fields, is an essential prerequisite. We have failed to produce the Magna Carta here in Rome, but perhaps we will succeed next time."

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