The early years
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) was first created by students for students in 1953 as a student identity card, giving full-time students around the world access to special travel related discounts and services.
The ISIC card: born out of the Peace Movement
Following World War II and the Cold War, the Western world was focused on mutual cooperation and ultimately preventing a revival of fascism. During this period many student organisations formed with the aim of working together for peace and cooperation throughout the world. One such student organisation, the International Student Conference (ISC) held their 3rd ISC at the Studenterforeningen’s Hus in Copenhagen in 1953. It was attended by National Unions of Students and Coordinating Secretariat of National Unions of Students (COSEC), Denmark, amongst others. The attending student organisations made the decision to establish a single international identity document for students.
Formation of the ISIC card
Many of the representatives of the ISC were also representatives of the International Student Travel Conference (ISTC). At the 4th International Student Travel Conference (ISTC), and following the decision made at the 3rd International Student Conference (ISC), the Norwegian and Netherlands Union of Students, in co-operation with COSEC concluded that the formation of an international student identity card would be of great benefit to students while travelling. The Norwegian and Netherlands Union of Students, in co-operation with COSEC of Denmark accepted responsibility to form a Travel Aids Commission and “take the necessary steps to ensure that an International Student Identity Card be made available as soon as possible in as large a part of the world as possible”. From there the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) was created with the aim to provide students with access to student facilities and services wherever they travelled to. It was agreed that the real value of the card would prove that the cardholder was a “bona fide” student. The first ISIC cards were produced by the Travel Aids Commission managed by the ISTC. In the first year of distribution 56,000 cards were issued in 31 countries. Integral to the decision to create the ISIC card was the view that student travel and exchange opportunities among students and youth leads to greater international understanding and tolerance. This belief remains core to the purpose of the ISIC card today.
UNESCO Endorsement 1968
The United National Education, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) became involved in the International Student Travel Conference from 1955. UNESCO has an interest in the ISIC card due to UNESCO’s similar aims promote intercultural understanding and provide access to education. Since 1968 UNESCO has officially endorsed the ISIC card. UNESCO recognises the ISIC card as the only internationally accepted proof of full-time student status and a unique document encouraging cultural exchange and international understanding. The UNESCO logo has appeared on the card since 1993.
2013 marked the 60th Anniversary of the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). To find out more, watch this short video featuring interviews with key people central to the ISIC card’s significant milestones in the past and present, and providing a snapshot of the promising future ahead for ISIC cardholders.
ISIC – travel to lifestyle
In the new millennium the need for a student card orientated to travel concessions was becoming less relevant. The reasons for this included worldwide economic decline, the introduction of budget airlines, online flight booking and direct airline sales. Up until 2001, the ISIC card existed as a travel card and a student identity card but it was agreed that the discount aspect must be utilised and the card repositioned as an everyday student lifestyle card. Having an everyday lifestyle card gives students greater value and benefits in all aspects of their student life.
ISIC in the future
Since 1953 over 100 million ISIC cards have been issued to support students around the world. ISIC are currently working towards the ISIC Cloud, the virtualisation of the ISIC card. Soon all ISIC cardholders will have access to their ISIC profile anywhere they have an internet connection.