Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The woes of Brexit

August 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

erasmusI have greatly enjoyed reading Pekka Kamareinen’s series of posts on this website on the history of VETNET – the Vocational Education and Training network allied to the European educational Research Association. Vocational education and Training is not a mainstream research area – indeed one of the long running discussions is whether it should be viewed as a discipline in itself or an area for trans disciplinary or inter disciplinary research.

Yet although Vocational Education and Training receives far less attention than research in schools and in higher education it is important. Arguably the rapid changes in the nature and organisation of the workforce and the introduction of new technologies make workforce skills and competence more important for the future. With very different systems and cultures of VET in different European countries, one key has been the ability to learn from how things are done differently elsewhere. Brexit threatens the ability of UK based researchers to be able to participate in this research in the future. True, anyone can participate in VETNET and attend the annual European Conference on Educational Research regardless of living in an EU country or not. But the stark reality is that many researchers depend on European project funding to be able to attend.

Although the English government has announced continuing support for organisations participating in the FP 7 Research programme, there has been no corresponding announcement of the Erasmus Plus programme, which is perhaps more important for VET.

Of course Brexit proponents had argued that withdrawal from the EU will release more national funding for research in the UK.But I fear that given all the challenges that the UK faces in organising withdrawal, educational research will be low on priority lists, and VET research probably even lower.  This bodes ill for the ability of researchers to particpate in the much needed debate on how the UK’s somewhat chaotic and underfunded VET systems can be transformed to meet the twin challenges of the changing nature of work and new technologies.

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Four: The continuing story of refugees and migrants (2011 and now)

August 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I have worked with a series of posts that revisit the European project “Learning about politics” in which I was the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what has happened since then. In the third post I discussed some themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project. In this final post I will have a look at a story that our group developed in the Politics Spring School 2011 – and which I followed up afterwards as a contribution to the Politics project. It so happens that the theme – integration of migrants and refugees – was a hot topic in 2011 and even more in 2016.

Making the initial story at Politics Spring School April 2011

As I have told in my first blog of this series, the Greek partners of the Politics project organised a joint Comenius and Grundtvig course with the name “Politics Spring school” to support the project work and as a free event for other interested participants. One part of the program for the project-oriented participants (mainly teachers on Comenius course) was to work in trans-national groups and to create a joint story based on each one’s individual inputs. In our group we had the Italian participant Valentina, the Norwegian Lisa (expatriate living in Brussels) and myself (Finnish expatriate in Germany).

Together we came up with a story of three observers visiting different places and looking, how the local people receive newcomers or how people from different origins get along with each other and their new environment. Our first station was the isle of Lampedusa, where we saw a video documenting the local people letting the refugees (who came with boats to harbour) that they were not welcome. Our second station was the intercultural environment in Brussels where we saw pupils of the international school communicating with each other in several languages – and small children of bilingual families talking fluently (and in turns) to their parents in their respective languages. Our third station was Berlin where we followed the work of the German-Turkish theatre group ‘Berlin Heroes’ trying to weed violent behaviour out of the relations between boys and girls (and young people with different religion). We also followed the work of the voluntary migrant-based ‘neighbourhood mothers’ (Stadtteilmütter) who visited newly arrived migrants and provided information and support to them in their new environment. So – we documented different kinds of activities and intercultural encounters – from clashes and conflicts to ‘new normality’ and to community initiatives to overcome tensions and provide mutual assistance.

Follow-up with news on refugees heading from Italy to France and Belgium

After the Spring School initiative I felt the need to continue the story with two follow-up threads. Firstly, I felt the need to follow the movements of refugees – in particular those arriving in Italy. At that time the government of Italy felt overwhelmed by the number of refugees – and provided them temporary admission certificates and free access to trains (to move further into the neighbouring countries). As a response, the government of France refused to receive refugees with such documents and introduced border control on the Italian border. At that time I wrote blogs with video documents on the movements of refugees in Italy, their problems at the Italian-French border and on the experiences of those who had made their way up to Brussels (or elsewhere in Belgium). Altogether, these documents showed that the refugees had not had an easy ride at any of the parts of their journeys.

Follow-up with stories on the integration of Turkish migrants in German society

Parallel to this I felt the need to look more closely at the integration of the earlier waves of migrants – such as the Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany and their descendants.  I was very much inspired by the new film “Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland” that gave a humorous picture of three generations of migrant family and their experiences in Turkey and Germany between 1970 and 2010. But I also took note of reports on the experiences of German-born German-Turks ‘returning’ to Turkey to start working in the country of their ancestors (and being perceived as ‘Germaners’ – Almancilar, Deutschländer). Therefore, I had discussions with mixed couples – Germans married to Turks and with experiences in living in both countries. After these sessions I wrote follow-up blogs to the story that was started at the Spring School.

Movements of refugees and reactions in receiving countries – 2011 and 2015/2016

Sadly enough, the results of our work with this story and the follow-up threads are no longer available in public domain. Archiving of old project websites is not an interesting task for former partner organisations. Nevertheless, these experiences served as a preparatory phase for encountering the more recent wave of refugees coming to EU member states in 2015 and 2016. Whilst government policies wavered between a permissive ‘welcoming culture’ and strict ‘fencing the trespassers out’ attitude, the citizens and NGOs tried to provide assistance and support. Yet, rather soon there was a backlash of xenophobic and hostile reactions as well.

For us working with social and educational projects this is not only a matter of observing what is going on. From this perspective I have found it interesting that the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC (application partner in our EU-funded Learning Layers project) has also been supporting the integration of refugees and the placement of refugee children to appropriate education provisions. Moreover, we have been thinking, how the newly developed Learning Toolbox could support the social and educational integration of refugees. These questions go clearly beyond the current project. But we know that there is a lot of potential – and that there is a lot of work to be done with these issues.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Three: Themes raised by the teachers

July 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest blogs I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. In this third post I will have a look at the the themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project.

WikiLeaks, Netzpolitik and the NSA-affair

One of the vocational school teachers raised the issue ‘WikiLeaks’ as a new phenomenon in the international politices of those years. Although he couldn’t participate very intensively in the continuation of the project, he had drawn our attention to the new role of social media and new kinds of social networks in national and international politics. We firstly paid attention to the WikiLeaks network and its revelations. Then, we took note of the new role of social media and new kinds of protest movements in the revolutionary developments during the Arabic Spring. Finally, parallel to these developments, we took note of the new kinds of Netzpolitik networks that revealed plagiarism in the academic dissertations of some leading German polticians. At that time the abrupt fall of the popular conservative politician Guttenberg (then minister of defence) was the most striking case in which a politician had to resign because of plagiarism in dissertation.

Whilst these themes firstly seemed to refer to relatively separate phenomena, during the subsequent years they appeared to be more closer to each other and to concerns of ordinary citizens. Whilst the revelations on plagiarism had put the credibility of several politicians into question, a further episode around the WikiLeaks network had a major impact on the atmosphere of trust vs. mistrust on government policies. The whistleblower Edward Snowden (former agent of the NSA) had revealed to what extent NSA had got access to major servers and thus to private data. The most striking news was that of listening of the private phone of chancellor Angela Merkel by the NSA. All this raised the public interest in data privacy and concerns about data protection by national governments and major internet and telephone service providers.

Juniorvoting and participation of young people in elections

Another vocational school teacher was interested in the phenomenon ‘juniorvoting’ (Juniorenwahlen)  – an initiative to organise simulated elections in schools among youngsters who didn’t have the right to vote. Such events had been organised successfully before national elections in Germany during the recent years. In 2011 there was an increased interest to organise such preliminary voting arrangements for youngsters also before the regional parliaments. However, before the elections of the regional parliament in Bremen there was less interest to organise such simulated voting, because the voting age had already been brought to 16 years. Thus, the youngsters had become real voters. Therefore, the schools were less willing to arrange juniorvoting events. Nevertheless, the teacher had collected lot of information on the implementation of such events and their role as preliminary elections and presented this as input to Politics Spring School. Also, we could use this material for the German platform of the Politics project. Sadly enough, the lowering of voting age appeared to have little impact on the participation of young voters in the regional elections in Bremen 2011 and 2015.

Climate change as challenge for policy makers and individual citizens

The third vocational school teacher had engaged himself intensively with the theme ‘climate change’ and managed to make use of this theme in his teaching. Therefore, we could use primarily his material as a basis for the respective ‘learning pathway’ of the German platform. This material had awareness-raising exercises (with YouTube videos), basic information on international policy processes to control/prevent climate change (Kyoto protocol and Copenhagen conference) and tasks that brought climate change close to the vocational area of his apprentices and to their individual behaviour as consumers. The grande finale was the competition for the apprentices to calculate the CO2 footprint of their designed holiday trips. Based on this material the teacher also prepared an input for the Politics Spring School and to work with several other participants on this theme.

Looking back, the theme ‘climate change’ gained weight in the German politics and at the international level. In particular the fact that the Copenhagen conference couldn’t reach major results, gave pressure to the next international climate summit – in Paris 2015. This time the conference managed to reach an result – a binding document that replaced the Kyoto protocol. Now the international community had made commitments to keep the climate change in limits. And the ecologically oriented NGOs had points of reference for monitoring, whether the policy-makers keep their promises.

– – –

I think this is enough of the themes that were raised by the teachers and how we worked with them – and what kind of actuality these themes have had afterwards. As we felt it at that time, our German team worked separately from the other national teams with clearly different contents. However, during the Politics Spring School we could all bring some of our themes forward in the group work – young people’s participation, climate change and integration of migrants/intercultural understanding. (I will have a closer look at the last mentioned theme and how it was taken up in the Spring School and in the follow-up.) And it it is worthwhile to mention that the the two German teachers who participated in the Spring School have worked together to develop their teaching in the subject politics.

More blogs to come … 


Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Two: Hot issues in 2011 and now

July 29th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In this second post I will have a look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. From this perspective I will have a look at the themes that we discussed in 2011 due to their centrality for German and international politics. Below I try to group some of the themes together.

Protest movements (on nuclear power and Stuttgart 2010) and elections of regional parliaments

During the Autumn and Winter months Germany experienced a series of protest movements with strong ecological message. Most prominently the German environmental activists were protesting against transports of nuclear waste to interim deposits that were not sufficiently secure. At the same time there was a strong ecologically motivated local movement to stop the project to replace the functioning overground railway station in Stuttgart with a new underground station. This rebuilding would require major construction work in the central park area (Schlosspark) of the city of Stuttgart. These protests were of importance because in 2011 Germany had several elections of regional parliaments – and it was not clear, what the outcome would be.

Concerning the project Stuttgart 2010, the conservative-led regional government of Baden-Württemberg tried to settle the conflict with a Round Table process led by an independent mediator (former conservative politician Heiner Geissler). The process was a special experience of democratic dialogue between decision-makers, the railway company DB and different representatives of citizens, including protest groups. Once the arguments had been collected, the conclusion was that the project has to be continued but the regional government and DB had to modify their plans to take into account certain ecological factors and safety issues. In addition, the Green party and the Social democrats agreed to arrange a referendum on this result.

Concerning the protests on nuclear power, they received a great echo due to the tsunami and meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant Fukushima. This triggered a sudden political consensus to call for a moratorium in the operation of nuclear plants (until additional security checks are carried out) and to a gradual exit from nuclear power within a given time frame.

As a result, the conservative party (CDU) made losses in several elections but remained relatively strong. The majority in the state of Baden-Württemberg (around Stuttgart) shifted to the green-red coalition (Greens as major partner) whilst in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz the red-green coalition got the majority. Thus, there had been a clear movement in the political climate due to the protest movements. Five years after, the Green popularity in Baden-Württemberg had sustained but the Social democrats had heavy losses. Now, the new regional government was based on a green-black coalition.

Debates on multi-cultural society and the consequences of the ‘Arab Spring’

At the same time the German media was busy with debates on the sustainability of a multi-cultural society in Germany. The former civil servant and social democratic politician Thilo Sarrazin had published a book in with he stated that the Germans will become minority in their own country. He also claimed that ethnic minorities with Muslim religion are establishing isolated parallel societies with their own language, culture and justice (independently of the surrounding society and its laws). This ‘doomsday scenario’ was heavily debated in the press and in the TV talkshows. There was also much speculation, whether Sarrazin wants to create a new political party around these themes.

Shortly after the peak point of these debates a series of revolutions or revolutionary movements broke out in several Arab countries – old regimes collapsed in Tunisia and Egypt, whilst the tensions in Libya and Syria transformed into civil wars. In 2011 there was more optimism in the air but the post-revolutionary developments in these countries turned out to be harder than expected. In particular the civil war in Syria and the post-war chaos in Libya gave rise to instability and to the movement of greater masses of refugees to Europe.

In the year 2015 this movement (via Turkey and across the Mediterranean) reached such dimension that the coastal countries and the neighbouring countries gave up and let the masses proceed further North to their desired countries of destination – in particular to Germany. Whilst the first newcomers were often received by voluntary helpers who welcomed them, practical problems (in accommodating them) and cultural prejudices became soon apparent. And this situation gave rise to new political movements (Pegida, AFD) that were characterised by xenophoby and attempts to keep the refugees out. In this way the ‘domestic’ and international issues had come together and given new dimensions to debates on multi-cultural societies, integration of migrants and intercultural understanding.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these themes. It appears that many previously separate issues and processes have got woven together – in particular the previously ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ issues in the recent political climate.  Thus, the task ‘to learn about politics’ has become more complicated. (This can also be demonstrated  with the themes raised by the German vocational school teachers that I will discuss in my next post.)

More blogs to come …




Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part One: The project experience and its impact

July 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During my summer break I have several times had thoughts on a prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011. The project as such was not one of the most successful ones in which I have been working. Yet – looking back at some of the activities carried out in the project and at the themes covered in the German contributions – I must say that I learned a lot during that time. And when comparing the hot issues of that time and those of the present date – there is a lot to be learned about the evolution of politics in the light of these issues. Therefore, I have decided to write a series of blogs to revisit the project experience and some of the key themes – now, five years after the end of the project. In this first post I will deal with the project as a whole and some of its key activities.

The project idea, the partnership and the evolution of the project

The project was initiated in Estonia on the basis of a ‘seed corn story’ on a young schoolboy who wants to change the world and starts a political campaign to run for the next elections. All this started in family talks and the boy and his followers started to get information and draft their program for the elections. The trans-national partnership was supposed to build upon the core story and continue it as national variants adjusted to their contexts.

As the project was launched under the transversal programme of the EU-funded Lifelong Learning Programme, the partners represented different educational sectors and had respectively different ideas, how to work further. Thus, the Estonian, Slovenian and Italian partners (who represented lower secondary schools) chose to work with this script. As a contrast, the Greek, German and Welsh partners (who represented other educational sectors) worked their own ways forward independently of the initial core story. This was reflected in the development of the trans-national website that gave each partner its own WordPress platform for developing its own contents. Below I will first give an overview on the work of the German team and then give insights into the Politics Spring School event.

The German sub-project took shape as a theme-based online learning environment

In the beginning phase we had had some difficulties in getting the project moving. After some time I cam in as a replacement of the initial partner. After exploring some other options, I ended up working with three vocational school teachers who had ‘politics’ as their second subject (in addition to their vocational subjects). We discussed several themes that might be interesting and outlined a set of  thematic ‘learning pathways’ (Lernwege) to be covered with introductory blog posts and separate ‘learning units’ with more specific information, links to additional materials and workspaces for learning tasks.

When developing this online learning environment, some additional themes came up. So, at the end of the project we had developed the following ‘learning pathways’:

Pathway One: The regional parliament elections in Germany in 2011

Pathway Two: Protest movements and citizens’ participation in Germany (Anti-nuclear protests and protests against Stuttgart 2010  railway station project)

Pathway Three: Protest movements and revolutions in Arab countries

Pathway Four: The new role of internet and social media in policy

Pathway Five: Debates on the integration of migrants and on multicultural society in Germany

Pathway Six: The issue of climate change and citizens’ responsibility

Pathway Seven: Young people’s participation in politics.

(I will get back to these themes in my next blogs.)

The Politics Spring School 2011 as a joint training and learning event

During the project the partners tended to work somewhat separately with their own contents and learning stories (except for the Estonian and Slovenian partners who had a closer collaboration). Therefore, the Politics Spring School (initiated and hosted by the Greek partners) was an important complementary training and learning event. The Politics Spring School was designed as a combination of a Grundtvig course for individual adult learners and of a Comenius course for teacher’s further education. In practice, the two first day were run as a joint multimedia training and then during three following days the groups were separated. The adult learners worked individually with their stories, whilst the teacher group worked in transnational teams that created their own stories. To me it was a positive experience to see that I could combine the theme ‘integration of migrants’ with the interests of two other participants (outside the project context). I a similar way the two German vocational school teachers could link their themes (junior voting and climate change) into their group stories.

– – –

I think this is enough of the project as such. I do not think that we would have been very successful if we would have followed strictly the original original plan. Some partners found it appropriate for them – for the others it was better to follow alternative options. Yet, as the Politics Spring School showed it, there was enough common content and interest to get the international partners learn and work together. Based on our teamwork in Bremen and in the Spring School the German vocational school teachers have continued their cooperation and shared experiences on their teaching in politics. I think this is already a good result. Moreover, the work with the German platform and the respective ‘pathways’ and ‘learning units’ provided me a pre-school for the kind of multimedia competences that I have needed in our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers project. Finally, the work with the themes to be covered has clearly been a valuable learning experience in German and international politics. (I will get back to this in my next blogs.)

More blogs to come …

Brexit, universities and research

July 21st, 2016 by Graham Attwell

bannerEmptyH2020Much of the concern expressed by UK universities regarding Brexit is linked to free movement of researchers and to the loss of income from European funded research. these are important issues and while Brexit campaigners promised national money to meet any funding shortfall, the credibility of such promises is doubtful.

But there are other important issues raised from the probable exclusion, or at least downgrading, of UK institutions in European funded projects. In the 40 or so years since the UK joined the European Union, research has changed. The days of the lone researcher, labouring away in their office or laboratory are long gone. Research today is largely comprised of distributed and cross disciplinary teams, often at a large scale. Internet technologies have facilitated communication between distributed teams and made knowledge sharing much easier. Not only does Brexit threaten to isolate researchers in the UK from participating in such projects, but it also makes the UK institutions less attractive for ambitious researchers. And at the same time, especially in an age of austerity, core national funding for full time researchers has been greatly reduced, with the rise of short term appointments based on European and other project based research funding.

Of course European funding is not perfect. As with any such funding programme, the bureaucracy can be annoying (to say the least). Competition to get projects is high. And the short term nature of project funding often condemns promising prototypes to a silo, whilst seeking more resources to continue the work. Despite various attempts by the EU to prompt sustainability, research exploitation routes remain perilous. But one of the great benefits of the European research programmes in education has been for professional development, although this is rarely or ever picked up in evaluation reports. Many of those leading research and teaching in European universities today have benefited from the informal learning from discourse and exchange with peers in different countries. Exclusion from that opportunity for UK researchers will be one of the greatest losses for education from Brexit.


Supporting start up businesses

July 5th, 2016 by Graham Attwell





One of the best things about Twitter is the ability to follow links to all kinds of things you probably would never have been to without it. And so I find in my notes somewhere the link to an article in Quartz – an online magazine (?) about which I know nothing. The link is to a loosely researched article about entrepreneurism – making the point that there is not much thing as an entrepreneurial gene but rather propensity to take risk and to set up new businesses is more like to be related to access to money – in other words to class.

The article, attributed to REUTERS/Allison Joyce, quotes University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubinstein who “analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine tells Quartz.”

Entrepreneurship is all the trend in Europe at the moment, especially in the recession and austerity hit southern countries, where setting up a business is seen as one of the few ways of getting a job. However the rhetoric seems to overplay the potential of technology (everyone can be the next Steve Jobs!), whilst ignoring sectors of the economy such as tourism which probably represent better opportunities within the existing labour market.

At the same time programmes such as the EU Youth Guarantee fund are being used to set up support agencies for young people wishing to set ups their own business and we are seeing the increasing emergence of co-working spaces for new enterprises. But anecdotal evidence – and some reports although I cannot find them at the moment – suggest that many of these businesses are struggling to survive beyond the first one or two years. In austerity Europe bank capital remains hard to come by and most young people do not have access to their own funds to consolidate and explained their business. Although initiatives like the EU SME programme are very welcome, access to such funding is not simple and anyway the amount of grants on offer are simply insufficient. As European politicians slowly wake up to the disaster austerity policies have wrought, then establishing better support for new businesses should be a priority, tied to easy access to small business start up capital.

Understanding that Brexit vote

July 4th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Many of my friends from outside the UK have asked me however could people have voted for Brexit. And I have read countless newspaper columnists and analysts asking the smae question (with usually not very profound answers). The best explanation I have come across was posted by Ron Johnston, Kelvyn Jones and Davidn in an article entitled Predicting the Brexit vote: getting the geography right (more or less) on the London School of Economics Politics and Policy blog. Using a large body of polling data collected by YouGov they had earlier this year pointed to “clear evidence suggesting that young people and those with higher-level educational qualifications were much more likely to support Remain, whereas older voters and those with few or no qualifications were much more likely to support Leave.”-And despite they misread the likely outcome of the referendum, their findings largely tie up with a post referendum analysis of the results. Following a detailed analysis they find that:

There are substantial parts of the country where large numbers of people have lost out from the deindustrialisation and globalisation of the last few decades of neo-liberal economic policies, and where the educational system has not helped large proportions of the young to equip themselves for the new labour market. Increasing numbers in these disadvantaged groups were won over during the last few decades by the campaigns in parts of the print media, taken up by UKIP since the 1990s, linking their situations to the impact of immigration – uncontrollable because of the EU freedom of movement of labour principle.

From this they conclude that “class, as expressed through educational achievements, delivered Brexit.”

Linking austerity (which has done nothing good for the vast majority of people in the UK) to the growing inequalities in the education system is important to understanding the Brexit vote. Of course the vote can be seen as an attempt to kick the ruling Tory party toffs. Yet it is very hard to argue for the EU, given that they have been one of the major transnational proponents of austerity.

However, I have some reservations about the idea that “the educational system has not helped large proportions of the young to equip themselves for the new labour market”. On the one hand this is obviously true. But the problem is that the new labour market is largely comprised of low paid and insecure jobs, mainly in the service sector. Many of those who have been able to pay for an increasingly expensive university degree are working in what are classified as non degree jobs. Education and the labour market have to be understood as parts of a symbiotic system. Education alone will not change the reality of lack of opportunity in deindustrialised areas of the UK. Lack of opportunity for meaningful and adequately paid employment and lack of educational opportunity are two sides of the same coin in a currency called austerity.

We are not going away

July 4th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I just checked the company documents. Pontydysgu was set up on 3 February 1999. In that time our work has moved from Vocational Education and Training to embrace the use of technology for teaching and learning, working around careers, knowledge development and sharing in organisations and much more. And whilst our core staff remains largely unchanged we have employed interns from all over Europe and wider afield, including Wales (of course), Romania, India, Greece and Portugal as well as the UK. We have worked with training organisations, libraries, universities, schools, NGOs and enterprises from across the European Union, we employ staff in Germany and Spain.

Brexit poses an existential threat to the future of our organisation. It is not just that the EU is a major funder of many of the projects and contracts that we working on. It threatens our whole pattern of collaborative research and development and our ability to develop the long lasting partnerships with individuals and organisations from all over Europe on which our work rests.

But we are not going away. Of course we, like many other UK based organisations, are exploring the option of setting up a company based in an EU country (or countries). In the meantime, with so much political uncertainly we will continue to work on our current projects and to seek new partnerships. And we would like to thank the many friends who have contacted us expressing their regret at the outcome of the referendum and their solidarity and determination and commitment to work with us in the future.

Waking up with the results of the Brexit-Referendum

June 24th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the recent years I have been blogging mostly on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I leave it at the background. And normally I am not making comments on politics – not of my country of origin (Finland) or of my host country (Germany) nor of any other country. BUT today I cannot help picking up the topic “Brexit” due to various reasons. Let me give three reasons for this:

  1. The “Learning Layers” connection: It so happened that the referendum took place just one day after the LL project consortium meeting in Bristol. The two last days before the referendum we spent in a productive and collaborative project meeting – working towards common results and discussing prospects for follow-up activities. In our meeting we worked in the spirit of accustomed normality – partners from Member States among each other as peers among peers. There was no feeling that this could abruptly change (although the British colleagues were worried and acknowledged the risks). Now, after the results, we understand that things will not change overnight and that the future cooperation arrangements will not exclude the British universities from European research cooperation. Yet, the change of climate is taking place and we don’t quite know what to expect.
  2. The Pontydysgu connection: I am writing my blogs on Pontydysgu website as a result of long years of cooperation. I came to know the senior members of Pontydysgu staff (Graham and Jenny) in 1996 at the beginning phase of the EU funding programme Leonardo da Vinci. That was quite some time ago – and some years before the start of Pontydysgu. During the following twenty years we have had a shared history of working in and with European cooperation projects – mostly with focus on vocational education and training (VET). In the course of the time I have learned to appreciate the effort of my Pont colleagues to work as interpreters between the Welsh, British and continental views – and to get the best out of different projects. In this way they have become popular and successful as British partners in EU projects – with educational, labour market -oriented, regional or ICT-related themes. Now, in the new situation I understand that my Pont colleagues have more concerns about their European cooperation than the universities.
  3. The family connection: Finally, I have a personal reason: I have very close family members living as expatriates in London. To be sure, the adults of the family have double nationality and so have the children. They should not need to feel ‘outsiders’, they have got their proper places in the British society. Yet, they (the adults) have grown up on the continent and brought with them a common family language (Finnish) when they moved to Britain long ago. Now, after this heated referendum campaign there are more questions in the air, how expatriates are being perceived in their neighbourhoods (or how the neighborhoods with expatriates are being perceived). Up to now I have had no reason to raise this question, now I am not sure. As we recently learned it in the context of the tragic killing of the Labour MP Jo Cox, “rhetoric has consequences”. But, in the same context we should try build on her life work and her attempt to overcome the power of hatred and division with something grater – human values and solidarity.

I think this is enough to clarify, why I cannot leave the topic ‘Brexit’ aside like an old newspaper with news of yesterday and days before. This new period of uncertainty – on both sides of the Channel – is not a matter of some rapid negotiations and then back to ‘normal business’. Now it is time to rethink and reshape the mutual relations on a new basis – and that need time. Let us hope that this time will be used well. I leave my remarks here and try to get back to my usual themes.

More blogs to come …

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    News Bites

    Peer Review

    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers

    Teachers and overtime

    According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.

    A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

    Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

    Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”

    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.

    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at

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