Rising Fees for Summer Universities Cause Concern

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AEGEE Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties are the best way to get to know Europe – and def­i­nite­ly one of the cheap­est one. It is amaz­ing what the organ­is­ers man­age to pro­vide with a small bud­get. How­ev­er, in the past five years the fees went up by more than 20%. While 14 SUs for 100 Euros or less were offered in 2002, this year the cheap­est one is 109 Euros. And while five years ago 40 SUs cost 150 Euros or less, this year the num­ber is five. Parts of the net­work are con­cerned that the num­ber of SU appli­cants might become even low­er than last year due to this devel­op­ment. As a solu­tion, AEGEE-Europe Pres­i­dent Réka Sala­m­on sug­gests to increase Euro­pean fund-rais­ing efforts — and pro­pos­es a brain­storm­ing day about the future devel­op­ment of the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties at the autumn Ago­ra in Cata­nia.

Already for sev­er­al years the shrink­ing num­ber of appli­cants and cours­es in AEGEE’s longest run­ning project have been of con­cern. The num­ber of appli­cants went down from more than 4000 in 2013 to less than 2800 in 2016. Also the num­ber of 65 SUs this year is the low­est since 1992, when the project was just four years old. There are many expla­na­tion attempts for the decrease: the shrink­ing num­ber of anten­nae and decreas­ing amount of mem­bers, trends in soci­ety such as more indi­vid­u­al­is­tic trav­els thanks to low-cost car­ri­ers, the ten­den­cy of locals to share the work­load by organ­is­ing Trav­el­ing Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties. And of course the eco­nom­ic cri­sis in large parts of Europe and the war in Ukraine are also rea­sons that are often men­tioned.

 

186 Euros for an aver­age SU, with­out option­al costs

Cheap SUs are pos­si­ble: In 2015 AEGEE-Napoli organ­ised the SU “Past & Fasul — Through the ages of time!” with 12 days for 95 Euros! Two years ago there were 16 SUs for 150 Euros or less — this year there will be only five.

In recent years the fees were raised in order to make it eas­i­er for anten­nae to organ­ise high pro­file Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties. This is vis­i­ble in num­bers. Five years ago the aver­age fee was con­sid­er­ably low­er: it was 154,60 Euros in 2012 and it is 186,68 Euros now, while the aver­age dura­tion of an SU is unchanged. The main dif­fer­ence is that there were a lot more afford­able SUs, cours­es below the psy­cho­log­i­cal thresh­old of 100 Euros. In fact in 2012 sev­en SUs cost less than 100 Euros and anoth­er sev­en exact­ly that amount. Plus, there were anoth­er 26 SU for less than 150 Euros. In total, every sec­ond SU was cheap­er than 150 Euros.

This year the cheap­est SU costs 109 Euros and there is a total of only five SUs for 150 Euros or less. The low­er prices in 2012 were also pos­si­ble because short­er cours­es were in fash­ion. Eight SUs last­ed ten days or less, com­pared with two cours­es today.

More fund-rais­ing, low­er fees

Jorge Sanchéz Her­nan­dez advo­cates for more SU fund-rais­ing. Here you see Jorge with one of his fund-rais­ing suc­cess­es for his SU of 2015.

The aver­age SU fee increase of 20.6% is more than over­com­pen­sat­ing the infla­tion in the EU, where more than two third of SUs are tak­ing place: in the Euro­pean Union the aver­age annu­al infla­tion in the past five years has been 1.1%. Of course, one can­not blame SU organ­is­ers for the price increase, since most of them sim­ply make use of the allowed pos­si­bil­i­ty to charge 14 Euros per day. Nev­er­the­less, the ques­tion is whether the SUs actu­al­ly pro­vide bet­ter ser­vices than five years ago or whether fund-rais­ing is neglect­ed since the fees cov­er all costs.

Jorge Sanchéz Hernán­dez sus­pects the lat­ter in some cas­es. He is advo­cat­ing for increas­ing fund-rais­ing efforts by the anten­nae in return for low­er fees: “If you spend effec­tive­ly only 10% of the time that you spend on prepar­ing your amaz­ing SU on fundrais­ing, you can do amaz­ing things, and the social class of your par­tic­i­pants won’t change”, Jorge says. “You will also feel more accom­plished after fundrais­ing 10,000 Euros for your SU, where your bud­get was 5000 to 6000 Euros in total.”

Cur­ren­cy deval­u­a­tion in the East and Turkey

The num­ber of appli­ca­tions espe­cial­ly of Poland and Ukraine fell.

In some oth­er coun­tries the infla­tion has been a lot high­er than in the EU, but so has been also the cur­ren­cy deval­u­a­tion in rela­tion to the Euro. For exam­ple in Turkey infla­tion was 8.3% in the aver­age per year since 2012 and in Ukraine even 15.2%; nev­er­the­less, the exchange rate also changed: five years ago you had to pay 2.44 Turk­ish Lira for one 1 Euro, now it is 3.99 – that’s a dra­mat­ic loss in vale. It was even worse for the Ukrain­ian Hryv­na, it fell from 10 to 28 Hryv­na per Euro.

On one hand, this makes it eas­i­er for anten­nae in these areas to organ­ise an SU, since par­tic­i­pa­tion fees are paid in Euro. On the oth­er hand, it makes it a lot hard­er for exam­ple for mem­bers from Turkey to go abroad and par­tic­i­pate in a Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty. “The Turk­ish cur­ren­cy lost huge pow­er in the last year espe­cial­ly, around 30–35%, so it already made SUs more expen­sive for us”, says Der­manşah Yalın, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Istan­bul. “You also know that now the min­i­mum fee for every SU is 14 Euros, no mat­ter whether it is a TSU or SC, so this sum­mer and last sum­mer it’s hard to find cheap SUs like before.” Mem­bers of sev­er­al Turk­ish locals dis­cussed the mat­ter at a gen­er­al anten­na meet­ing a few days ago — and came to this con­clu­sion: “Espe­cial­ly this year appar­ent­ly there are too many excep­tions for high­er fees, so as a result we find SUs expen­sive”, sums Der­manşah up. “Not hav­ing Wiz­zAir or RyanAir in the coun­try is also anoth­er obsta­cle for trav­el­ling.”

Also Suzan Dila­ra Tokac is aware of the sit­u­a­tion: “I was just dis­cussing it a few days ago. I don’t know if it is because we are los­ing the pur­pose of a non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tion and try­ing to make ben­e­fits out of our events or whether it is just the cor­rupt­ed eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion in almost all Euro­pean coun­tries”, the AEGEE-Eskise­hir and AEGEE Day team mem­ber says. “Of course the fees are an issue. There are peo­ple who can trav­el with­out visa or find good tick­et deals, but because the fees are high­er some are most prob­a­bly miss­ing the best oppor­tu­ni­ties of their lives.”

Like Jorge, also Suzan would like to see bet­ter fund-rais­ing efforts among SU organ­is­ers. “You know why we are good in rais­ing mon­ey for our Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties in AEGEE-Eskise­hir? Because we have a real­ly nice and devel­oped FR strat­e­gy and every year we receive a lot of things with spon­sor­ship. That’s why we can afford to vis­it five places, three meals per day and many activ­i­ties.”

Pos­i­tive devel­op­ment in Rus­sia

In some coun­tries the decrease of Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty appli­ca­tions is caused by the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion. The num­ber of Turk­ish SU appli­ca­tions fell from 208 in 2012 to 170 last year, although it reached its low in 2015 with 157 appli­ca­tions. In Ukraine the drop is even more vis­i­ble: the num­ber went down by almost 50%: from 217 in 2012 to 110 last year. Roma Gnatyk, board mem­ber of AEGEE-Lviv, sees a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion between high SU fees and the num­ber of appli­ca­tions: “For us it might be a prob­lem, also tak­ing into account that there are much high­er addi­tion­al expens­es, like trav­el­ing. But I guess every­body also under­stands — includ­ing us — that it is becom­ing hard to orga­nize big events in more expen­sive cities in gen­er­al with the same fee lim­it.”

In gen­er­al, it is not easy to draw con­clu­sions with­out con­sid­er­ing how the net­work devel­oped in cer­tain areas in recent years. For exam­ple, in Rus­sia AEGEE devel­oped quite well. So, despite the fact that the Russ­ian Ruble lost around 50% of its val­ue since 2012 – from 40 to 63 Ruble per Euro – the num­ber of SU appli­ca­tions by Russ­ian mem­bers went up, from 122 to 165.

Spain: from almost 1000 to 669 appli­cants

Cristi­na de la Parte

The biggest decrease of SU appli­ca­tions hap­pened in Spain, a coun­try which suf­fers from a huge youth unem­ploy­ment. From here tra­di­tion­al­ly most SU appli­ca­tions orig­i­nate and this is still the case today. How­ev­er, while in 2013 alto­geth­er 995 mem­bers of Span­ish anten­nae applied, the num­ber dropped to 669 last year. No won­der that the issue of ris­ing fees has been dis­cussed inten­sive­ly among Span­ish mem­bers last week. “Pay­ing 200 Euros fee for an SU plus flights, food, drinks… in the end it is a big amount of mon­ey”, says Cristi­na de la Parte, Vice-Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-León and ACT mem­ber (see a full inter­view with Cristi­na below).

Always help­ful and hard-work­ing: the SUCT

Next to the high aver­age fee of 186.68 Euros there is also an option­al fee of 33.70 Euros per SU. The high aver­age fee is also the result of an increas­ing num­ber of excep­tions that were grant­ed. “We are con­stant­ly look­ing for solu­tions to keep the price as low as pos­si­ble”, states the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty Coor­di­na­tion Team. “This year we have received many requests for a high­er fee. Every sin­gle one of them has to have an approved bud­get — we checked all of them very care­ful­ly. We reject­ed many of the requests or low­ered fees. We also skyped with a few organ­is­ers who would not be able to organ­ise an SU if we don’t accept their request.” The SUCT also stress­es that with­out the excep­tions many events would not take place (see the full SUCT state­ment below).

Réka Sala­m­on: Euro­pean fund-rais­ing for SUs nec­es­sary

Réka Sala­m­on

The Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe backs up the point of view of the SUCT. “I ful­ly trust the work of the SUCT in try­ing to sup­port the local organ­is­ers in cre­at­ing the most rea­son­able bud­gets for their SUs, as well as I am sure the locals sim­ply need to push for high­er fee, if they want to pro­vide qual­i­ty pro­gramme and enter­tain­ment for the par­tic­i­pants”, com­ments Réka Sala­m­on (see full state­ment below). On the oth­er hand, she also sees the neces­si­ty of stronger fundrais­ing efforts in order to achieve “a more sus­tain­able mech­a­nism for the future of AEGEE Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties.” And this is not only a local task, as Réka points out: “I believe it should be the role of AEGEE-Europe to find prac­tices and means to pro­vide finan­cial sup­port for AEGEE activ­i­ties, includ­ing Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties.”

AEGEE’s Pres­i­dent sees a chance in coop­er­a­tion with oth­er asso­ci­a­tions or by apply­ing for grants from Unesco or the Coun­cil of Europe with SUs with a strong the­mat­ic core. This is a chance that should be explored by many mem­bers togeth­er, con­cludes the Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe: “How about we allo­cate one day of the autumn Ago­ra only for SU devel­op­ment prac­tices, from begin­ners to expe­ri­enced mem­bers?”

 

Accepting helpers that want to participate in the SU can be a solution”

The point of view of Cristi­na de la Parte, Vice-Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-León, mem­ber of ACT.

Gold­en Times: Cristi­na, is the rise of SU fees a prob­lem for some of your mem­bers? Or is it irrel­e­vant, because trav­el­ling is expen­sive any­way and the SU fees don’t mat­ter in the mix?
Cristi­na de la Parte: I think it is a prob­lem, because many peo­ple can­not spend so much mon­ey on trav­el­ling, and trav­el­ling is not even always expen­sive. Pay­ing 200 Euros fee for an SU plus flights, food, drinks… in the end it is a big amount of mon­ey.
GT: The aver­age SU fee in 2017 is 186.68 Euros, five years ago it was 154.60 Euros. In addi­tion the aver­age option­al fee is 33 Euros…
Cristi­na: That clear­ly proves that SUs got more expen­sive in the last years. More than 30 Euros in five years is too much!
GT: Do you actu­al­ly know peo­ple who do not apply for an SU because of high­er fees?
Cristi­na: I know peo­ple that have applied for a spe­cif­ic SU because the fee was super low, and they could only afford that par­tic­u­lar SU.
GT: So what is the solu­tion? What can AEGEE do?
Cristi­na: It is com­pli­cat­ed to find a solu­tion because with low fees it is hard­er — but not impos­si­ble — to pro­vide every­thing to the par­tic­i­pants, such as lodg­ing, food, trans­porta­tion and activ­i­ties. We should give peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty to help and par­tic­i­pate in an SU by pay­ing a low­er fee.
GT: How can you give that oppor­tu­ni­ty?
Cristi­na: It is up to the orga­niz­ers of the event to accept helpers that want to help and par­tic­i­pate in the SU. It could be a solu­tion for those mem­bers who can­not afford the fee and oth­er expens­es, if SU orga­niz­ers let them par­tic­i­pate by pay­ing less mon­ey and receiv­ing their help in return.

 

Réka Salamon: “We need to rethink our SU strategy”

Accord­ing to AEGEE-Europe’s Pres­i­dent the asso­ci­a­tion should find new means to pro­vide finan­cial sup­port.

Réka Sala­m­on, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe: “I ful­ly trust the work of the SUCT in try­ing to sup­port the local organ­is­ers in cre­at­ing the most rea­son­able bud­gets for their SUs, as well as I am sure the locals sim­ply need to push for high­er fee, if they want to pro­vide qual­i­ty pro­gramme and enter­tain­ment for the par­tic­i­pants. What we need to realise is that soci­ety around AEGEE is chang­ing. You can feel life becom­ing more expen­sive, the finan­cial cri­sis and heavy infla­tion bad­ly affect­ing some coun­tries and areas of the net­work, we have high youth unem­ploy­ment rates, there is sim­ply a cri­sis in Europe.

We need to upgrade AEGEE’s fundrais­ing activ­i­ties and adapt them to an increas­ing­ly com­pet­i­tive and chal­leng­ing soci­ety. I believe it should be the role of AEGEE-Europe to find prac­tices and means to pro­vide finan­cial sup­port for AEGEE activ­i­ties, includ­ing Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties.

How? We can explore UNESCO resources for cul­tur­al exchanges, we can learn more about Eras­mus+ youth exchanges for get­ting fund­ed the­mat­ic ele­ments in the SU. We can focus on human rights and democ­ra­cy as SU top­ic and turn to the Coun­cil of Europe. We can also build stronger bridges with insti­tutes for cul­tur­al her­itage edu­ca­tion, for inter­cul­tur­al learn­ing, there are so many pos­si­bil­i­ties. Think about five lan­guage Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties that are being organ­ised in part­ner­ship with an actu­al lan­guage sum­mer school, and as a project fund­ed by EU funds.

How to define which local is inter­est­ed in which top­ic? How about we allo­cate one day of the autumn Ago­ra only for SU devel­op­ment prac­tices, from begin­ners to expe­ri­enced mem­bers. We can define coop­er­a­tions and top­ic ideas ear­ly, so SUCT and AEGEE-Europe can look into fund­ing options by the end of the year or begin­ning of next year.

I think we can have a lot of ideas like this to dis­cuss with the SUCT in order to cre­ate a more sus­tain­able mech­a­nism for the future of AEGEE Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties. 30 years of SU cel­e­bra­tions are com­ing up in 2018. 30 years mark the time we need to rethink our strat­e­gy and to upgrade the AEGEE SU, so it can con­tin­ue to be a strong trade­mark of our organ­i­sa­tion.”

 

SUCT: “We received many requests for a higher fee”

The Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty Coor­di­na­tion Team wrote an open let­ter.

You can always count on the SUCT

Dear Net­work,

we just want to let you know that we are real­ly hap­py so many peo­ple engage with this project! We are hap­py you are help­ing us with the qual­i­ty assur­ance, so we decid­ed to pro­vide you some back­ground infor­ma­tion.

This year we have received many requests for a high­er fee. Every sin­gle one of them has to have an approved bud­get — we checked all of them very care­ful­ly. We reject­ed many of the requests or low­ered (option­al) fees. We also skyped with a few organ­is­ers who would not be able to organ­ise an SU if we don’t accept their request. We are con­stant­ly look­ing for solu­tions to keep the price as low as pos­si­ble.

We need to real­ize that we have a big amount of SUs which require long dis­tance trav­els — the cost of the Transsi­ber­ian can’t be low­ered tech­ni­cal­ly, also fly­ing from Greece to Spain for an amaz­ing­ly low fare will still boost your bud­get. Imag­ine trav­el­ling with a train through whole Italy or have the trans­port between Turkey and Greece includ­ed.

Please real­ize that most inter­nal crit­i­cism in AEGEE is about shrink­ing num­bers. With­out the excep­tions we would lose many great events, and demo­ti­vate the orga­niz­ers that already put work in the plan­ning and try to make the best event with only 14 Euros a night. How many of you joined AEGEE because of Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties?

Last but not least, we would like to stress that we are always hap­py to receive direct feed­back, which can come in any of the fol­low­ing forms.

Your Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty Coor­di­na­tion Team, Elect­ed on Ago­ra Chisin­au”

E-Mail

  • suct@aegee.org
  • lucia.gavulova@aegee.org
  • claudiogennaro.aegee@gmail.com
  • rvmihaylova@gmail.com
  • philipp.blum@aegee-aachen.org

Face­book

  • http://m.me/aegee.su
  • http://m.me/lucia.gavulova.1
  • http://m.me/kirschplunder
  • http://m.me/rallymihaylova
  • http://m.me/ClaudioGennaro

What­sapp

  • Lucia: +49 176 20742186
  • Philipp: +49 1575 7270332
  • Clau­dio: +39 320 6617591
  • Rali: +49 157 75789107

Oth­er social media:

  • Twit­ter: @AEGEE_SU
  • Insta­gram: @AEGEE_SU

 

 

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