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Monday, 17 March 2008


At the end of February I attended the Labour Party Spring Conference in Birmingham. This year I spoke at three seminars on fairly diverse subjects. One seminar was on education, one on campaigning on the web and the third was on fighting the sex trade in Europe.

Education is not normally an area where the EU gets directly involved. It is rightly up to individual countries to decide on their educational priorities. But there are a number of areas where EU cooperation can help. As Labour's spokesperson on Culture, Youth and Education in the European Parliament, I spoke about what Labour MEPs are doing to boost cooperation in the field of education.

ERASMUS is one of the EU's flagship education schemes. It allows university students to spend up to one year studying abroad. Needless to say almost everyone who opts to take an Erasmus year comes back with a broader outlook on life, enhanced language skills and increased employment prospects. It's sad then that the Tories recently voted against increasing the grant for students who take part in the scheme.

Europe has traditionally excelled in pure science but we have a poor record at translating this into useful innovation, particularly when compared to the United States. I spoke about the benefit we can get out of the proposed European Institute of Technology.

Finally, I also talked about some of the work we're doing to ensure that university degrees from one member state are recognised in another. More and more graduates are seeking work in another country. Mutual recognition of degrees will surely help their employment prospects.

I'll write more on the other two seminars tomorrow and Wednesday.

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