The Commission wants to promote access to education for foreigners

A Commission report shows that it is still difficult for students, pupils, trainees and volunteers from outside Europe to train in Europe.

The first report on how Member States have implemented EU rules on the entry and residence of students, pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers from third countries suggests that the use of these forms of temporary migration could be further improved. In particular, the level of harmonisation achieved by the Directive and the rights it grants could be increased and strengthened.

Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs said that student mobility benefits global economic development by promoting the circulation of knowledge and ideas. The Commission will continue its efforts to create an effective legislative framework allowing third-country nationals to acquire skills and knowledge through training in Europe.

In 2009, more than 200 000 third-country nationals entered the EU for the purposes of studies, pupils exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service.1 T The highest number of third-country nationals arrive for the purpose of education and studies. In 2009, the countries which received the highest number of students were France (53 563), Italy (32 634), Germany (31 345), Spain (22 068) and Sweden (13 968).

Today’s report evaluates the state of transposition of the Directive and identifies problematic issues which are impeding the full potential of this EU instrument.

The report reveals a crucial need for amendments to the Directive, especially regarding: the reinforcement of procedural guarantees (specific deadlines for handling applications, obligation on Member States to give reasons for refusals); the strengthening of mobility clauses (which concern students admitted in a first Member State who apply to continue their studies in a second Member State); the stimulation of synergies with EU programmes that facilitate third-country nationals’ mobility into the EU; or the improvement of the level of harmonisation as regards volunteers, unremunerated trainees and school pupils (this could help developing an overall EU legal framework in the area of education, training and cultural exchanges with third countries).

Therefore, the Commission has the intention to propose amendments to the Directive during 2012.

The Commission will continue to ensure that the Directive is correctly transposed and implemented across the EU, including by launching further infringement proceedings where necessary. The Commission will also continue working at the technical level with the Member States and intends to better inform and assist both Member States and third-country nationals, making the best use of the internet, in particular the future EU Immigration Portal.

Moreover, without impinging on the power of Member States to determine the volumes of migrants, the issue of access to work for third-country national students at the end of their studies could be specifically addressed in the future.


Directive 2004/114/EC 2 establishes common rules of admission for non EU nationals to an EU Member State for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service.

The overall objective of the Directive is to promote Europe as a world centre of excellence for studies. As part of this effort, the Directive aims to set up a common legal framework, making it easier for third-country nationals to enter and stay in the EU for the purpose of studying. Having a coordinated and transparent legislative framework makes the EU more visible, accessible and attractive to third-country students as a place of higher education.

The Directive also lays down a set of basic rules on the conditions under which school pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers may enter and stay in the EU. As opposed to the rules on students, Member States may choose whether to apply the Directive to these three groups of migrants.

By promoting these forms of migration, the Directive aims to encourage ‘mutual enrichment’ between different actors and ‘better familiarity among cultures’. The early years of education have a fundamental influence on young people’s values, attitudes, aspirations and knowledge. Work placements and vocational training allow them to acquire important skills which may help them and their employers in future work situations. Involvement in voluntary activities can be a valuable source of cultural exchange for volunteers who are also able to acquire new skills and experience.

The report meets the Commission’s reporting obligation under Article 21 of the Directive. It is based on a study carried out for the Commission and on other sources, including ad-hoc enquiries made through the European Migration Network, complaints, questions and petitions sent by private individuals and discussions with Member States on practical issues arising from the application of the Directive.

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