The Students Parliament of the Republic of Poland initiated a campaign ‘Better Studies’ in June 2014 to influence the revision of Polish HE law. The proposed reforms are on the linking of the curricula and learning outcomes to the student – HEI contract and improving scholarships to address equity, particularly for students with disabilities.
Objectives of the Intervention
In June 2014 PSRP invented an action #LepszeStudia, which aims to improve standards of studying at Polish HEIs. The campaign addressed three ideas for amending the HE laws:
- Curricula and learning outcomes as part of the written contract between HEIs and individual students
- Implementation of a right for rectors to introduce scholarships for the best students and as well a special scholarship for the disabled, which is independent from previously graduated studies
- Ensuring that all students receive the same amount of scholarship independent from the date of graduation.
Scope of the campaign was to influence the revision of the Polish Higher Education law in summer 2014 or if not completely successful also beyond 2014.
The intervention is part of a more holistic aproach as PSRP is the legal representative of the Polish higher education students. Therefore PSRP constantly tries to improve the study conditions and also to ensure quality in education, as well as all other needs students might have.
Origins and rationale of this initiative
Campaign was initiated by PSRP the national students’ union in Poland after it became clear that a revision of the higher education laws will take place. The three presented changes (see above) were identified as the most important issues from a student perspective based on the input provided by student ombudsmen and representatives from disabled students. PSRP tried with this campaign to tackle existing inequalities within the current higher education law. As it is a political action there is no theoretical framework.
Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative
As PSRP is representing all students in Poland the target group was the whole student population in Poland, around about 1.6 million, and especially students with disabilities (around 32,000 students).
The campaign was aimed to influence the Polish government and the target was to mobilize students to support the proposed changes. The campaign also informed students about the proposed changes and students had the chance to directly support the political agenda of PSRP.
Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative
PSRP is the legal representative of all students in Poland and is representing the needs and interests of students. In the mission statement is stated that PSRP aims to achieve a high quality education and to influence all relevant political structures to ensure students’ interests. Therefore influencing policy makers in the interest of students is a core task of the Union.
To influence the policy making process PSRP was talking to politicians from all parties, while at the same time PSRP informed their members about changes in the higher education law and what the student union is lobbying for.
The lobbying strategy towards the parliament had two approaches. On the one hand PSRP is regularly present at the responsible committee and is able to give direct input. On the other hand meetings with all parties and their responsible people were arranged to discuss in a smaller setting the proposed changes of the law and the ideas of PSRP. These meetings were more successful with the parties of the opposition.
Students were able to endorse the agenda of PSRP directly while signing a petition. There was no cooperation with other organisations outside the student movement.
Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals
In the beginning PSRP created 10 proposals for amending the higher education law. Out of these ten three were chosen to be the most important after consultations with local student unions from all over the country. After this a campaign was created and a website designed. On the website the support of individual students was collected and the proposals for amendments presented to the responsible committee in the parliament and as well within meetings with each party. The campaign took place mostly at the local student unions, where students were informed about the urgency of a higher education reform. This was done via posters, articles in newspapers, radio interviews and all sorts of new media used to spread the information and to strengthen the awareness of students.
Although the campaign has not been successful so far with regard to the latest amendments of the higher education law, it has still been successful in raising the information level of individual students about the problems and need for a law reform. PSRP have decided to continue with lobbying for the political targets they have set until the next law reform, which might happen in 2015.
Describe if the project ensured its sustainability
The project is targeted at changing the higher education law, therefore if the campaign is successful; a sustainability strategy for this campaign is not needed. However as success has not been achieved so far, the sustainability strategy has been to prolong the campaign.
Resources used in the initiative
The project budget was around 1,000 Euros and it was funded by PSRP. More than 4,000 volunteers from local student unions were active in the campaign. The campaign was highly dependent on the support of volunteers. With respect to materials, mostly a webpage and a poster campaign were used.
The investment in the campaign was recognised positively as the campaign is now seen as a preparation for the next higher education reform.
Did the intervention reach its objectives?
The objectives of the campaign were not completely achieved in the first instance. However as there is still an opportunity to change the law in the future it is difficult to say what at the end of the day will be achieved.
The indicator of success would be the adoption of the proposed changes in the higher education law.