Almost exactly 20 years ago, I got on a ferry and headed off to the Netherlands to spend 4 months at the University of Leiden on an Erasmus exchange. I had classes there with Hungarians, Belgians, Spaniards, Danes, Americans and those are just the ones I can remember. Yesterday the British Council, the UK national agency for the Erasmus programme, held a birthday party to celebrate this landmark and highlight the importance of the programme.
Love the typo! We started with Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, who highlighted the importance of global education for UK prosperity.
He also gave us the numbers for the programme:
But it wasn't all about dwelling on success, but looking to the future
Then David Willetts, the Universities Minister spoke and it was good to hear a government minister extolling the virtues of a European programme.
He also announced that it had been agreed to fund a 15% fee waiver for students studying abroad during their degree
Then it was over to participants. Annette Strauss of the University of Surrey had been involved from early on and spoke a bit about the background, including the difficulties of multi-country partnerships in the days before email :) She also made a point that I think we need to pick up on in the representation
Any thoughts about how to do so are very welcome!
Next up was Lizzie Fane of Third Year Abroad.
Angela Pearce was an alumna from the very first year and talked about coach travel, phone cards and waiting for letter from home, which brought back some memories!
Julia Kennedy from Robert Gordon University spoke about the value of the staff exchanges, telling the story of an academic who told his students not to do Erasmus as it was bad for their degrees. Then he did a staff exchange and, like Saul on the road to Damascus, everything changed and now he is one of the biggest fans in the university.
Last of the alumni was Muhammed Abbas Abdulla from Queen Mary University
Last up was Steven Beswick of Microsoft.
He told the recent story of two candidates, one with a first from Oxford , the other with a 2:1 from non-Oxbridge. But the skills that the non-Oxbridge candidate had, enhanced by their Erasmus experience, swung them the job.
Speeches over, we then got on with the fun bit - eating the cake!