Phillip Stöcks prizes the opportunities that Eucor – The European Campus offers students, but sees a need for improvement. He is the president of the Student Council of Eucor – The European Campus, that represents the interests of the alltogether 115,000 students from the five universities. Pascal Lienhard spoke to Phillip Stöcks about the work of the council and the opportunities that mobility offers.
Mr. Stöcks, what interested you about the Student Council of Eucor?
Phillip Stöcks: In November 2016 the then administration of the Freiburg Student Council asked who would represent the university at Eucor. The European Campus is repeatedly mentioned in the media. Yet for me it was unclear how student participation could function there. No one had considered the topic in Freiburg, but I found it very interesting. So I decided to take it on.
Who makes up the Council?
Each university sends two representatives and two deputies. A chair is then elected from this pool, plus one person each as secretary and treasurer. We try to meet every six months. For simplicity’s sake, discussion usually takes place in English. However we do also chat in German or French.
What is the role of the Student Council?
The representatives of the respective student bodies contribute the issues affecting the students from their university. As the president I represent their interests on the committees of the European Campus, that is, in relation to strategic planning or the future structure of teaching. Besides this, it is important to me to reach out to students directly and make them aware of what is on offer and potential problems. Abstract themes such as higher education funding are difficult to understand fully and not many find it very interesting. Easier mobility and trinational opportunities on the other hand give rise to a lot of interest and a willingness to become involved in student representation from many students.
What do you think are the advantages of the European Campus?
The project can have many advantages. It’s particularly interesting that the universities are close to one another. So this creates a new form of mobility. Unlike Erasmus+, you can also attend courses at another university by the day. So students who maybe have family obligations can also take part, and the financial barriers to access are lower too. Unfortunately, however, students are not able to access Erasmus+ funding.
Are you making use of the European Campus opportunities yourself?
Not yet. But I’d like to attend a course in Strasbourg next semester. I wouldn’t like to pretend that there aren’t still major problems. For instance there are barriers such as the semester dates, which are different in Karlsruhe and Freiburg than in Strasbourg, Haute-Alsace and Basel. This makes it practically impossible in the summer semester also to attend courses in France. There, the semester starts on 15th January, while we only complete the winter semester in April. So a rapid adaptation of semester dates is one of our key demands. This is the only way that many will be able to make use of the opportunity in the long term.
What challenges are there still?
Many students don’t know anything about the European Campus, or the opportunities it offers aren’t clear to them. The Student Council and the universities have to improve its profile, for instance with regular information events and advice sessions. At the moment there’s also a discussion about a Eucor ambassador, for example. That’s a step in the right direction. Another problem is the funding, part of which will soon run out, and how things will continue remains unclear. We believe securing sustainable funding is one of the greatest challenges. There’s also Emmanuel Macron’s Europe-wide initiative which aims to create European university groupings. At present, the aim is to tailor the European Campus very much to this model, however Macron’s idea is open to criticism: the initiative doesn’t aim to create a broad, diverse higher education area which everyone can benefit from. It only represents a university network for the European elite.