Nuffic, an organisation dedicated to internationalisation in education, seeks to ensure that the environment does not suffer more than strictly necessary from student exchange programmes. It asked 109 former exchange students what Dutch tertiary education institutions could do to be more sustainable in this regard.

Judging from the exploratory study, 39 per cent of respondents found sustainable internationalisation important or very important, as opposed to 45 per cent who either did not care at all or only cared very little. When it came to modes of transport, 71 per cent of respondents opted to fly, whereas only 14 per cent took the train. Even when they travelled to universities within Europe, 63 per cent of respondents chose to fly.

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Asked to justify their choice, most students said that flying was the fastest option, or the only realistically feasible travel option. They also stated that flight tickets were easier to book than other options. Few of them mentioned financial reasons. Nevertheless, many students said they might have made a different choice if they had been offered compensation for their travelling expenses. Three-quarters of them said such a scenario would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ have prompted them to travel in a more sustainable way.

What was noteworthy was that students said they were willing to spend money of their own on a more sustainable trip. Nearly half of them stated that they would be prepared to pay between one hundred euros and two hundred eurosextra, and a quarter would be prepared to pay more than two hundred euros more.

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Bonus for train travel

Many students are unfamiliar with the Erasmus+ Green Travel Top-Up, which comprises a one-off €fifty euros bonus as well as up to four additional travel days for exchange students who opt to travel by train, bus or car. Only 5 per cent of respondents applied for the bonus, which was partly because many students found the amount offered insufficient.

Nuffic found that there is a discrepancy between students’ opinions on sustainability and their actual behaviour, but also said that things could be improved in that regard. Furthermore, many students indicated that they would appreciate help booking a more sustainable trip.

In a previous article, PhD student Shirley Nieuwland gave tips for affordable train travel.

Flights under 700 km? The ESHCC will no longer be covering expenses