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Should foreigners get special treatment?

Should foreigners get special treatment?
author: Ismael Garcia

Making the EU more attractive to foreign students has been an important topic over the last years. In 2013 the European higher education in the world strategy was launched in order to promote mobility and cooperation between the universities of both EU and non-EU member countries. The strategy aims to ensure that Europe becomes a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Europe is attracting 45% of all the international students, but since the recent increase of quality in other universities outside of the EU, e.g. Latin America, Asia or the Middle East, European universities will have to compete to maintain those numbers. But how can they make themselves look more appealing to foreigners?

There are five major factors that have an impact on the choice where to study abroad: Classes offered in English, living expenses, quality of education, life and career and the English proficiency among the population.

Back in June, 2018 the city counselors of Rzeszów discussed the possibility of offering free public transportation to all the foreigners that study in the city during the next academic year. They also wanted to reduce the prices for locals by 50%. This created a conflict between locals and foreigners, with the first considering this special treatment to be unfair towards them.

While working with Erasmus students in Spain, I have been told countless times that they were not receiving any kind of special help from teachers, and that they were treated exactly in the same way as the local students. While it might seem to be fair to treat all students equally, we should consider that foreigners might have never learnt the hosting country’s language, they might be dealing with emotional breakdowns from leaving their home for the first time, as well as leaving their relatives behind.

All of this leads to the question: Should foreigners have a special treatment in relation to locals? And if so, what kind of special treatment?

Some may appeal for easier exams or a different way of evaluating them e.g. via essays instead of exams; regarding the monetary subject they could ask for cheaper enrollment for their studies. All of those, which surely might work for attracting foreigners into European universities, might create the same conflict as the bus issue, since somehow the educational system would be discriminating locals in favor to foreigners.

Poland first and only Poland. Elseways, meanwhile I was booking my train ticket from Warsaw to Rzeszów, my friend and translator asked the agent at the station if I could have any student price discount, while the woman answered that since I was not a polish student I should not have any.


A jest studentem w Polsce? (Is he a student in Poland?)

-Nie, w Hiszpanii. (No, in Spain.)

-No to nie. (Well, no.)

 

Same applies to public transport on both cities: When there is some student discount it only applies to students in Poland, not taking in consideration whether the person is a student or not in their respective country.

When it comes to solving this matter, public institutions seem to have their hands tied. If they stand up for foreign students they will have the locals against, and otherwise. There is no easy way out of this predicament and the only thing that can be done is checking how much they can overstep the mark for ones or the others.