My flying visit to Belfast last week was manic, but really very interesting. There were a number of Northern Irish colleges there and some of them were presenting their own EU projects as case studies. A special mention must go to Belfast Metropolitan College and South West College for their inclusive approaches to partnership working.
Whilst at the event the draft proposals for the new EU education & training funding programme were unveiled. ‘Erasmus for All’ will succeed the EU Lifelong Learning Programme. The LLP currently encompasses Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig, Comenius, Erasmus and Transversal, but the proposed new programme will do away with these familar names and aim to provide a less bureaucratic (I won’t hold my breath) and simpler framework of opportunities. I have to say that on seeing the draft proposal, which you can find here, I am slightly concerned that there is a heavy focus on HE. The overall budget, however, is significantly increased. Let’s hope that they don’t decide to reduce it like they did before the launch of the current programme!
There will now be a consultation period between the European Commission and the national governments and also with stakeholders. We have time to feed into this process – the new programme won’t launch until 2014.
In the meantime, just another ‘heads up’ that a lot of the deadline for project applications under the current programme will be hitting us early next year. Please check the relevant websites for information.
And so to Edinburgh… A bit different from the same time last year when those of us who made it up for the British Council’s Education UK Partnership Conference promptly found we couldn’t get home quite so quicky due to the snow storms! Thankfully, there was only gale force winds this year, but that didn’t stop me enjoying the wonder of the city.
The Conference this year was mainly around the opportunity for the British Council to map out their new service offer to current Education UK Partnership member colleges, universities and boarding schools. Rather than the annual subscriptiong we’ve been used to paying, sometimes for services we may not have fully used, the new offer will be services on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. There was a specific early morning FE session yesterday which gave the opportunity for those delegates from the sector to talk to colleagues from the British Council about their concerns for the new services or to ask any questions. One of the main ones, I think, will be about the pricing structure. Given that universities are operating on a much bigger scale than many FE colleges it will be interesting to see if a sliding cost scale might be applied to reflect this. I certainly think it will appeal to colleges if there is this consideration.
A couple of years ago I did a contract with Education UK Partnership as a FE Adviser and some of the things we were starting to do for the sector had real promise. I think revisiting some of those intiatives will ensure that the new service offer will be of real benefit to FE and ensure an understanding of what the FE sector can offer internationally, not just to potential students and businesses abroad, but also to the British Council in-country staff who, quite often, have little or no understanding of FE and therefore are unable to promote it properly.
The conference was, as always, an opportunity to meet up with FE colleagues, although we did seem a bit thinner on the ground than in previous years….. Is this a sign that the British Council have an uphill task with FE?
The Conference dinner was an opportunity for FE colleagues to relax and discuss informally some of the issues facing them at the moment, both in terms of domestic FE issues and international challenges.
And last but not least….. At the conference this week I was talking to someone from a College who said he was replacing a colleague who should have been attending. His colleague was out in Trinidad and Tobago on a UKTI export mission along with reps from other FE colleges. Whilst out there he had a freak accident and was badly injured. He’s still out there recovering, but hopefully will be back in the UK soon. After the accident an International Manager from another UK FE college took the initiative and escorted the injured FE rep to hospital, went to visit him, helped contact work/family in the UK and then also staffed his own College exhibition stand, but the other injured guy’s College stand!!! I don’t want to name names, but you know who you are! It goes to show how faith in human kindness can be restored. S – you are a star! A – I hope you’re better soon!
Till next time…..