European STEP *English version*

European STEP *English version*

What role for youth engagement in Europe? Is student engagement recognised and valued within academic currila? If so, in what way? In order to better understand the daily lives of young people engaged in extracurricular activities and to better support them in identifying and promoting their skills, Animafac and six partners launched the European STEP project, with a major study on the recognition of student engagement in Europe.

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The new EU Youth Strategy of the European Commission for 2019-2027 emphasises the active role of the youth in society and the importance of their engagement and “civic, economic, social, cultural and political participation”. However, youth engagement is often overlooked and undervalued.

In this context, Animafac is coordinating the Erasmus + “European STudent Engagement Project” (European STEP), in cooperation with six European partners: the European University Foundation (EUF) in Luxembourg, the Office of Student Life of Dublin City University in Ireland, the University of Cergy-Pontoise in France, the University of Valladolid in Spain, the University of Vienna in Austria and the Volunteer Centre of the University of Warsaw  in Poland.

This project focuses on the recognition of young people’s active participation in student academic curricula. It will provide an overview of practices in the countries of the European Union (EU).  In the long term, the project aims to contribute to the recognition and enhancement of student engagement in Europe, in particular as a factor in the development of key and cross-curricular skills complementary to the academic path.


In order to carry out the European STEP project, the consortium is first leading a major study. The legislative frameworks on engagement recognition in each EU country have been mapped: you can view the mapping here. A survey intended for European Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is ongoing, with an online questionnaire on their recognition measures and policies. In addition, a qualitative study including interviews with students, teaching and administrative staff will start soon.


In the second phase of the project, the consortium will develop tools to train students, administrative and teaching staff on the matter of student engagement recognition, and create a training kit. A digital “Engagement & Skills” platform will also be launched to help committed students identify the skills acquired during their experience of engagement.

The final step will consist of the production of a guide for HEIs and students and a booklet of recommendations presenting good practices to public local, national and European decision-makers, with the objective of promoting student engagement and its appreciation.


Throughout the project, various events will be organised in the different partner countries to disseminate the results of the study and raise awareness on the subject. Furthermore, the European University Association (EUA), the French Conference of University Presidents (CPU), Conference of Grandes Ecoles (CGE), and the CROUS have joined the project as associated partners to boost the dissemination of its activities and results.

European STEP aims to reach the 28 countries of the EU, 300 HEIs and 150 000 engaged students from the universities of the consortium and their partners, and from the student association networks connected to the project such as the European Youth Parliament (EYP), the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and the Young European Federalists (JEF) at a European level, and all the association of Animafac’s network in France

This mapping presents an overview of the different legislative frameworks that rule student engagement recognition in the European Union Member-States, six years after the EU Council recommendation of December 2012 inviting the countries to set up validation measures for informal and non-formal learnings, including solidarity and volunteering activities. It was developed through a study of regulations and laws in force in each country.

On the one hand, this study highlighted that there is no unique terminology for “engagement” at the European level. Some countries will rather speak about “volunteering”, “commitment” or “active participation”. Thus, student engagement is understood here in a broad sense to refer to students’ involvement in citizenship-related and volunteering activities, their political and associative commitment as well as their involvement within their universities and campuses.

On the other hand, the research underlined the heterogeneity of situations between countries in terms of legislation on student engagement recognition. The 28 Member States have been classified into three categories.

Full screen

Fly over the map and click on the different markers to discover which framework on the recognition of youth engagement applies in the different countries of the EU. To access the other categories presented on the map, click on the icon « Voir les calques »and select the desired categories by clicking on the icon « Montrer/masquer un calque ». ()

Download the summary table

Category 1 regroups the countries where there is a legislative framework on student engagement recognition for higher education in particular, i.e. higher education is covered among other things by the legislation so that students’ active participation and the related skills are validated as part of the curricula (ECTS credits, timetables arrangements, annex to the diploma etc.).

For instance, in France, the Equality & Citizenship Act promulgated in January 2017 requires higher education institutions (HEIs) to adapt the curricula of students exercising associative responsibilities and to recognise the skills acquired in the context of extra-curricular  activities on the same basis as disciplinary skills.


Category 2 concerns countries where there is a legislative framework on the recognition of engagement independent from higher education, i.e. the engagement experience and/or the related skills can be recognised by host organisations or certified institutions. Depending on the case, the framework makes it possible to obtain certificates of engagement, volunteering certificates or even to attest the skills acquired. These can be used to enter the labour market or apply to university. However, they are not taken into account in academic curricula.

For instance, in Austria, according to the Volunteering Act every volunteer can ask the host organisation for a certificate of activity and skills : the volunteer Passport (“Feiwilligenpass”). This law does not involve HEIs.

Nevertheless, in the countries of category 2, HEIs can take the initiative to implement recognition and validation measures, such as Bonn University in Germany and Nova University in Lisbon in Portugal.


Category 3 gathers countries where there is no national legislative framework on the recognition of participation. Nonetheless, there can be local initiatives and national reflections on the matter. For instance, in Sweden, there is no legislative framework but a Commission was created in 2015 to consider the implementation of validation of the skills acquired outside the education system.


Furthermore, three subcategories were created:

  • Subcategory A specifies the public targeted by the legislation: students, young people under 30, volunteers in the broad sense, or the entire adult population
  • Subcategory B identifies what is covered by the legislation: experiences of engagement, volunteering and/or the acquired skills; or informal and non-formal learnings in general
  • Subcategory C qualifies the nature of the legislation for countries where there is a framework for the recognition of student engagement in higher education (category 1): incentive framework or binding framework.

If you need any further information about the study, please contact Lola Bonnet-Pol, our European research officer :