Midnight in Europe

Written by Tom Freeman on 9 December 2014

Prime Minister David Cameron’s language on Europe has got tougher in the last fortnight, and under increased pressure to appear hostile to the European Union he conducted a press conference warning if the UK’s demands fall on “deaf ears” he will “rule nothing out”.
A combination of larger than expected net migration into the UK and two MPs defecting to UKIP has put the other UK political parties on the back foot over the question of Europe, and in this climate it is easy to forget the many forms of European funding and other interactions and collaborations across the academic community, and how well Scotland does out of it. 
The European Research Council (ERC) is keen to point out that Scotland is a high performer, with 12 per cent of applications successful, one of the highest in the EU. As someone who is clearly impressed by the number of international students and academics attracted to work in Scotland, Professor Jean Pierre Bourguignon’s lecture for the Royal Society of Edinburgh centred on what diversity means for academia. 
The ERC is one of the biggest, but by no means the only European funding game in town. Last week the Erasmus+ European Union programme awarded €7.57m to Scottish education, training, youth and sports organisations. Scotland was awarded 151 grants, 18.5 per cent of the UK total. Higher education got £2.8m, vocational education and training received over £1.5m, schools gained £1.2m and adult education gained over £590,000. The aim of the awards is to promote volunteering or working abroad and cross-European collaborations.
Lloyd Anderson, director of British Council Scotland, which is involved in the scheme, said it was encouraging. “The Erasmus+ programme is a valuable way of ensuring that our young people, as well as those returning to education, develop international skills. This isn’t just about language skills, but about international knowledge and understanding,” he said.
Bourguignon’s diversity in action, then. The French mathematician told me: “I think there are many situations where this diversity has been the source of creativity, but at some point you have to realise it has been the source of creativity because of interdependence. This is the message I would like to explain. In a number of situations in science, this diversity has been really a fantastic source, so we should be careful not to kill it.”  

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