25 Oct 2023

Horia Onita and Rita Dias. ESN and ESU: New leadership

1000x667_74_Onita and Dias


It’s a turbulent time for students across Europe as they deal with pressing issues, such as the lack of student accommodation and the fight against climate change, alongside their studies. Two highly active and visible student organisations have their backs, though: the European Students’ Union (ESU) and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). Both organisations work hard to ensure the student voice is heard and that students are given the chance to participate in important conversations about the current state and future of (international) higher education in Europe.

In this episode of the EAIE podcast, we talk to the new presidents of ESU (Horia Onita) and ESN (Rita Dias), who both started in their roles in the Summer of 2023. What motivated them to seek out these leadership opportunities? What do they see as the top challenges facing the students they represent today, and how will their organisations address these challenges? How do their organisations work together, and how do they engage with others beyond Europe? And how do they characterise the current state of student engagement and activism? Students are talking, and the EAIE is listening!

About Horia Onita

Horia Onita serves as President of ESU, after 9 years of school and higher education student movement at the local and national levels in Romania. In ESU, he is working on overarching political priorities (Bologna Process, European elections, etc), quality assurance of education, learning and teaching policies, digitalisation and the social dimension of higher education. He represents ESU in positions such as co-chair of the Drafting Committee of the 2024 Tirana Communique or co-chair of the Bologna Follow-Up group on Social Dimension. He also follows EU developments on education funding and monitoring and has been representing ESU in the Steering Committee on the Education of Council of Europe. Horia holds a Bachelor of Law and a Master of Public Procurement degree from the University of Bucharest.

About Rita Dias

Rita Dias is 27 and comes from the coast of Portugal. She has a bachelor's in Political Science and International Relations and a Master's in Public Policy. Rita did her Erasmus in Leuven, Belgium, and worked at the United States Embassy in Lisbon in 2018 and in the Political Observatory in the Association for Political Studies and Scientific Research in 2020. She joined ESN in 2018 when she moved to Lisbon to start her master's. She held several positions in the network, such as President of Portugal and Liaison Officer for Inclusive Mobility. As current President of ESN, she is responsible for the general coordination of the organisation, external relations, policy, and advocacy. Her main priorities include increasing participation in learning mobility and fostering civic engagement and participation of young people through Erasmus.

Additional Resources

For further insights into the topics touched on in this episode, the following resources may be of interest:

→ ESN – preliminary results of ESN survey 2023

→ ESU - Survey on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy and Academic Integrity from a Student Perspective

→ ESU & ESN joint publication - How are exchange students navigating the housing crisis?

→ Kelly-anne Watson: Student accommodation: key trends and considerations