Many of my classmates are tested in higher education. As far as languages are concerned, they are convinced that it would be convenient to be trilingual, at least, to be prepared for the current labor market. The vast majority fantasize knowing that it feels to be young, student and self-employed in another country of the European Union to 27 without having to leave their respective careers (not to mention the interest aroused by many other regions of the world such as Latin America, Asia or North America). And all, without exception, consider that there should be economic mechanisms to help them achieve all this without having to resort to their parents. Like them, the immense majority of young Spaniards today make the same reflections and yet, few get to consider studying “outside” as a real and viable option.
Study in Spain
First big obstacle: study in Spain. The Spanish balance in the application of the European Higher Education Area that began with the Bologna process in 1991 is quite catastrophic. Only at the beginning of next year will there be the first races adapted to the European system, that is to say with the system of “cycles” of the same duration and with a number of harmonized university credits. In Spanish universities, following a logic that escapes me, it has been decided that the future first cycles last 4 years instead of three like Germany, France, Italy …
We have been no less than 15 years behind in the implementation of a European higher education policy that should arouse much more interest among the administration, society, teachers and students. It is about fighting the battle for the European University, a common educational space that could be seen as a meeting point for a Europe that is more real, more practical, more citizen and much more capable of competing with the great international powers, a space common synonym of student mobility, intra-European knowledge, cultural, academic, personal and political enrichment not quantifiable. And more in the case of Spain, which despite having some business schools of great international prestige, does not have any public or private university among the 200 best in the world, according to data from the two most important rankings in higher education of the world, ARWU and THES 2006. A deficit that places our graduates higher in the second place on the list of the worst paid in the entire European Union, only behind the Czechs. All this without mentioning that Spain in 2050 will be the country that will have aged the most in the European Union with 36% of its population above 65 years (now that stretch represents 17% of the population) and where the active population should throw with strength to maintain the economic balance of our social model.
Second big obstacle: financing. I do not speak for speaking, I have lived it in my own flesh. There is no public aid, nor that is to afford the trip, for a Spanish student enrolled in a French university (I insist, enrolled, not Erasmus). No bank has an international or European network sufficiently prepared to accept as a guarantor a citizen who does not have his fiscal residence in the country where the financial institution is contacted. University students, just like entrepreneurs with their projects, we build ourselves and depending on the resources we have available we can enrich our personal and professional skills in the very near future. Two of the largest French banks, the Société Générale and the BnpParibas offer student loans with a fixed interest rate of 2.5%, with a grace period of up to one year after completing the studies and a total of 9 to return the credit. They ask that the guarantor be French, a problem again for those of us who do not have French nationality. However, in Spain, banks have not considered something like that. The possibilities that we have are limited to a student loan with a variable interest rate depending on the EURIBOR (which in France leaves by 2.5% here at 6%) and with a much shorter time of deprivation than in the French case . Evidently asking for a guarantor of Spanish nationality and demanding the latter to immobilize a part of the capital. I will express it in another way, no Spanish bank has considered that the fact that I can ask for a loan for a second or third cycle university project can be a little bit different from requesting a mortgage and that may involve, perhaps, an adaptation of banking services to this type of demand. Unfortunately, it is most often that the student’s journey, their abilities, their study project, their qualifications, their experience or their simple willingness to be better prepared are considered simple details of their “dossier”.
A moment, a moment. “Ask for a loan, to study, with a short twenty years?” Our parents exclaim between indignant and worried about the future of their children. But really, what else we have left? The new “University Income Loan” released this year? Yes, but with insufficient amounts per month to pay tuition at a university in London next to a rent for example. The scholarships? Yes, some are good and companies and foundations work so that every day there is more supply, but most times they are more of “contests” restricted to fields of study or specific cases and with very high academic requirements and competition, only a privileged few can get them. “Social helps”? It depends, they are still based on the “family income”. Something that makes little sense, because if as a citizen of legal age I can be brought before justice, regardless of who I am, I do not understand why it should matter to my parents’ income in order to obtain grants for a university degree or a official loan. There is no law that says parents should pay their children’s college. Just as there is none that forces me to ask for your support.
In a globalized and unpredictable world every university student and consequently professional future we will be ambassadors of our ideals and our culture. As better prepared and more tolerant, the European Union will have greater possibilities as a joint society and a mixture of identities to be respected and to have a say in the great decisions to come. Soon we will realize that not only is it profitable but necessary that the old continent bets in every way for its current generation of young university students and entrepreneurs.