‘Improving the professional mentoring services at the College of Europe'

Dear Professor Monar,

We address this letter to you on behalf of the current cohort of students and recent graduates at the College of Europe that have signed the online petition: ‘Improving the professional mentoring services at the College of Europe’.

This students' petition came about because of the concerted dissatisfaction with the career services provided by the College. This letter hereby underlines the reasons for dissatisfaction, suggests means of improving the services provided, which ultimately would allow the College to meet the expectations and needs of future students.

This initiative is not grounded in the naïve presumptions that the College would provide us with a job or the expectation to be hired by the ‘College family’ alumni upon graduation. However, what we did expect when applying, was to become a part of a highly recognized and renowned institution that would mentor and help us to, according to College publicity:

“Build a bridge to what is about to come: a stunning career in the EU and beyond”.

Regrettably, this has not been the case.

It appears that there is a gap between the services promised and those actually provided by the College. Many students are still dependent on the networks of other academic institutions, all equally reputable and better performing in delivering professional guidance (i.e. Sciences-Po, LSE, Bocconi, UniBo, etc.) . We assess the work of the Career Office as rather unsatisfactory. We miss a centralized career platform that unfortunately does not exist, even though it is a basic service which many other academic institutions provide. The list of job/internship offers on the ‘bureau de carrières’ intranet page has a very limited value-added since many offers are public and in any case they are very limited in number (200 in a year). The Alumni Association inventory, which works with fewer human and financial resources than the College, is not updated regularly, but is still more visible and accessible than the services provided by the College.

We firmly believe that the marketing strategy of the College has to go beyond relying on its past success and glory and cannot only continually attempt to revive it through catchy phrases (as aforementioned). In fact, the strength of the College logo falls flat when students find themselves in a situation where they must face the difficulties of finding employment opportunities alone. Serious and planned actions to target employers and develop long-lasting cooperation and consistent partnership with employers, institutions and networks are urgently needed. If change is not brought swiftly, the reputation of the College will continue to decline and strongly risks to fade away. 

The College’s still-recognized brand cannot sustain the pressure of a cohort of dissatisfied students every year.

The Career Days are a striking example of this failure. 

We regret that the Career Days focus almost exclusively on Law students as also the students of the other departments expect support from the College for their job search. According to College publication on the Career Office intranet page, this is based on the premise that “It has to be noticed that even if these career days are opened to employers coming from every field of activities, it is mainly Law firms which are used to recruit in such a way. Despite the efforts produced every year, it is very difficult to decide companies from other sectors to positively answer (not in the habit of the company, turnover too weak, etc)". Whilst this may be true, we still question this statement as law firms pay a fee of €500 per day whilst other companies could come for free to attend such career days (as told to us by the career office in a recent meeting). Given all the consulting, lobbying, and advocacy groups, NGOs, permanent representations, embassies and alumni working in Brussels, we are not convinced that none of them are prepared to make the short trip, let alone respond to the College’s invitation. 

Even though law students might benefit most of the efforts of the Career Office, the results are rather modest. They are nonetheless restricted in most cases, to competition law and short-term internship contracts (few students gained six month internships after the career days, the other having found by themselves). We think that this is no satisfactory outcome. We wish a more effective service for students of all departments of the College. We can hardly believe that the College does “its utmost to bring students into contact with the labour market in general and more especially with recruiters”. Furthermore, we miss the “relationships with recruiters who might be interested in the profiles of students at the College”. Examples for the unsatisfactory balance sheet of the College activities are Accenture who did not employ anyone or Deloitte who hired only two summer interns.

This situation caused feelings of frustration for students who have lost their belief in the career enhancing potential of this institution, and whose families made sacrifices, took loans to allow us to come here. 

With this letter we do not challenge the academic level of the College, or its former role in the construction of Europe, we would simply like to ask you, Professor Monar, were we all wrong to believe in the career enhancing potential of the College? As future Rector, we would also like to submit you a list of proposals we students have prepared on how to improve this service, making comparison with other universities we come from. We emphasize once again that it is in our common interest that the College of Europe keeps its high reputation: the success of the College students on the labour market is key to reach this common objective. 

The Václav Havel & recent graduates concerned students.

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