95. Mr Reilly suggested (Q 15) that
"a more positive perception" of study abroad via the
Socrates-Erasmus programme might help to encourage mobility
among British students. He thought it a scandal (Q 5) that the
did not mention the European dimension at all. Lord Smith of Clifton
hoped the advent of a Government which was not anti-European,
and the establishment of an international sector group within
the CVCP, might help to change the climate (Q 172). Professor
Teichler drew a contrast between the United Kingdom's lukewarm
approach to Europe and the drive in the Republic of Ireland for
modern language learning. He noted that the UK and Ireland are
both homes of the lingua franca: and yet their strategies are
different (Q 234).
96. Lord Smith of Clifton considered
that there was a serious failure of leadership at corporate and
Government level (Q 174). He said that the CVCP Council had never
had Erasmus or Socrates on its agenda, and that
very little attention had been paid to the programme at the level
of the DfEE, CVCP, or at the UK Socrates Council (where
he had just taken over as chair) (QQ 172, 174 and 194). Vice-Chancellor
attendance at the Council was poor. In his view, the Council should
be the main policy forum. At present, the director of the national
agency (Mr Reilly) carries all the burden on his shoulders. Lord
Smith accused the DfEE of a book-keeping approach, with imbalance
the only issue on the agenda (Q 172). He expressed the hope (Q
202) that in the future the DfEE would spend more time on the
issues raised by Socrates-Erasmus and stimulate the CVCP
to work out a national European policy.
97. The Committee asked Baroness Blackstone
whose responsibility it was to coordinate the national strategy
in relation to the programme. The Minister's reply reinforced
the impression that there is no single co-ordinating voice, drawing
together a UK strategy on Socrates-Erasmus (Q 245).
98. The Committee took evidence from
the CVCP and from the DfEE as to how they were set up to respond
to EU initiatives. It noted that the CVCP does not refer to Europe
in its corporate mission statement (although Professor Sibson
explained that because the word "Europe" was not explicit
in the statement, it did not mean it was not implicit (Q 106)).
The Committee heard from Baroness Blackstone, whose own praise
for the programmes was fulsome (Q 235), that it was the DfEE's
job to promote the programme (Q 245); but we also heard from the
DfEE that it was quite difficult to explain how the DfEE dealt
with European questions, and what the relationship was between
the higher education directorate of the Department and the EC
Policy team (Q 70).
99. The Committee is persuaded
that the Socrates-Erasmus programme benefits the European
Community as a whole; individual countries within the Community;
universities; and the students who take part in the programme.
We therefore consider that the programme should be an important
and positive aspect of the United Kingdom's higher education institutional
100. The Committee views exchanges
under Erasmus as a crucial part of the international dimension
of higher education. Not only do students going abroad benefit
from their experience, but British universities benefit from the
presence there of Erasmus students from other countries.
As cultures, economies and businesses have become increasingly
globalised, so too have academic disciplines. The international
dimension of higher education is therefore something in which
the Committee considers to be of great value, and to be encouraged.
101. The Committee is concerned
at the lack of coordination of the United Kingdom's strategy towards
Socrates-Erasmus. The Committee believes that a more coherent
strategy is a necessary step in redressing the imbalance of flow
by encouraging British students to take part in the programme.
We therefore recommend that the Government should discuss with
the CVCP and the UK Socrates-Erasmus Council how such coordination
might best be achieved, and that they should then act on the outcome
of such discussions in order to ensure a more positive and strategic
approach to the programmes within the United Kingdom.
102. The Committee is concerned
about the imbalance of flow of Erasmus students in and
out of the United Kingdom only insofar as that imbalance reflects
a reluctance on the part of British students to take part in the
programmes. British universities are fortunate to attract a high
number of incoming Erasmus students. The Committee recommends
that action be taken to address the issues which prevent the United
Kingdom from sending a similar number of students abroad under
103. In particular, the Committee
recommends that urgent action be taken to improve language teaching
in schools and universities. We note with concern the falling
number of foreign language assistants in state schools in recent
years. We note also the Minister's acknowledgment that "we
need to work very hard to recruit more people to teach French,
German, Spanish" in secondary schools. We recommend that
the Government should take immediate steps to find ways to improve
the teaching of all major foreign languages in secondary schools,
and to encourage the use of language assistants in the state sector.
In addition, we call upon the Government to give further consideration
to the teaching of languages in primary schools.
104. We recommend the provision
of intensive language courses in universities to enable students
(in particular students who are not language students) to take
up opportunities to study abroad. We recommend that HEFCE incentive
funding be used as a source of finance for these courses. We would
also welcome an increase in the use of language assistants in
universities, as well as in schools.
105. The Committee draws the
attention of the House to the long-term benefits which accrue
to the United Kingdom from hosting foreign students at British
106. We do not believe that the
United Kingdom should seek compensation for hosting such a large
number of Erasmus students. While we accept that universities
hosting these students incur costs, we also acknowledge that other
countries incur greater costs of translation and language training
than the United Kingdom does. Furthermore, we consider that the
way to deal with the imbalance of flow is not to apply for compensation,
but to decrease the imbalanc7e by encouraging more British students
to take up Erasmus places.
107. Although we do not believe
that the United Kingdom should seek compensation, we do acknowledge
that the funding structures in higher education in the United
Kingdom give rise to perverse effects, so that British universities
would incur a financial cost by taking Erasmus students,
even if the inflow of students matched the outflow exactly.
108. We welcome the Government's
intention of waiving tuition fees for out-going Erasmus
students. However, we note that funding structures at present
still make it more attractive for universities to take third-country
students, rather than Erasmus students and other EU students.
109. We recommend that the Government
should undertake or commission a study of funding mechanisms of
British higher education courses, with the intention of producing
recommendations as to how to eliminate this perverse effect of
the current funding arrangements on European higher education