Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Converse wisely. Roundtable talks on Brexit at the British Youth Council.

Remember that scene from King’s Speech when Colin Firth as George VI somewhat indignantly blurts out “I have a voice” at a baffled Geoffrey Rush portraying his speech therapist?

If you have seen the film (and who has not seen it really?) you must remember that moment, that crucial turning point where after a lifelong battle with stammer, the King finally realizes that he indeed can fulfill his duty and that the thing that has haunted him his entire life can be overcome with the support of others.

On August 31st I was given a unique opportunity to join the roundtable talks with a number of representatives of various youth organization from all across the UK. The event titled: “Roundtable: Inclusive and Diverse Communities and Youth Voice on Brexit” took place at the British Youth Council headquarters in London.

It was a privilege to have been able to hear young people’s opinions, questions, concerns, and their general take on Brexit negotiations. At the beginning of our session we were asked to describe, with one word, what exiting the European Union meant to us personally. These words were later read aloud around the room. They were very vocal expressions of genuine concern and disappointment as well as anxiety about our futures. During these few, highly productive afternoon hours we discussed a list of Brexit related topics key to young Brits today. We spoke about the quality of state education, freedom of movement, voting rights, the economy, hate crime and many other matters.

We, young people, youth activists have our beloved, vibrant communities. We ourselves are a community. We have a voice. We have a voice and we want it to be heard. We have our strong opinions, inspiring thoughts, good suggestions and our politically viable ideas MUST be taken seriously. We do not wish to be sat at the kids’ table at the dinner party merely being able to overhear the clanging of the cutlery and a muffled yet heated debate from the main dining room.

As Europeers UK it is our pivotal goal to keep and further develop Erasmus+ opportunities for UK youth and it is our assiduous mission to be present at the forefront of a widespread debate and be an advocate for this issue. We will remain strong and continue our campaign until we are certain that these requests can be secured during the actual negotiations.  

Written in Leytonstone on September 4th 2016
By Olga Ambrosiewicz, Europeers UK Steering group member

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ellie went to Scotland

Would you like to go to Bulgaria?” I was asked by my Police Cadet Leader. I was a slightly awkward and nervous teen, but in spite of this I seized the opportunity and went on to travel to the other side of Europe and experience a series of consequential events, that, two years later continue to impact who I feel I am and what I do today. A strong and cliché filled statement but one that shows why I am so passionate about being a EuroPeer...and how I am a writing newbie!

Therefore, I jumped at the invitation to promote international opportunities with fellow EuroPeers and Momentum World at the National Volunteer Police Cadet Conference. It took place over the first weekend of June and was set in Tulliallan, Scotland - a fairy tale perfect location with eerily good weather. 

The attendees were a blend of young leaders, Police Officers of various ranks, volunteers and other youth invested organisations; likeminded in that they all valued young people. It made for a warm environment and we spent the first evening getting to know one another over a glass of apple juice. 

Saturday at 2pm was our slot to promote EuroPean Opportunities. Each EuroPeer to share our own story, much like we had our EuroPeers Website ( ). At 1.54pm I began to attempt to do some subtle power poses in my chair as I waited for our turn.

Momentum World and fellow EuroPeers each gave unique and insights into international experiences - I was feeling adventure ready and inspired by my peers' words. Too suddenly it was my turn to speak; I looked at the 200 hundred large audience with bundles of life experience and clutched tighter on to the notepad that contained a few scribbled and illegible bullets points. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but I imagined the audience all to be wearing beaming smiles, so I relaxed slightly, took a breath and shared my story. My thought is that believing in our EuroPeers ethos and having experienced what I was saying, all helped me to project this passion/stumble over words excitably and find a momentary confidence to promote our cause.

As a team we hoped for the audience to feel what we were saying and in turn go on to get involved with international opportunities, whether volunteering on a project, creating a project or promoting opportunities to their cadets. That Saturday evening - pre pub quiz, we held an optional evening meeting for people to find out more...the room was full of curiosity, ideas for cadet projects and energy - it was incredible. 

I left the weekend feeling privileged to have been able to share my experiences towards such a cause and moreover, overwhelmingly excited for each cadet/young person that has international journey awaiting them! 

By Ellie Devereux

University tuition fees in Britain

University tuition fees in Britain were introduced in September 1998 by the Labour government under Tony Blair as a way of funding undergraduate and postgraduate students at university. Since John Major’s initial commissioning for an inquiry into the funding of British higher education in May 1996, tuition costs in England have since increased to £9,000 per year. From September 2016, maintenance grants will be scrapped and it is likely that tuition loans will increase further in order to make up for the scrapped grants. From 2017, tuition costs will further increase, in order to keep up with inflation.
All this has subsequently led to England officially holding the rank of having the most expensive university costs in the world, ahead of even the United States, Australia and Switzerland. But why is this the case? Why does it now cost so much for a student to study and earn a degree in England? Why should a student get into so much future debt simply for wanting to study what they love? Will this deter future would-be university students from applying for a place at university?

The first thing that we should understand about university tuition costs in Britain is that it differs depending on which constituent country you are seeking to study in. English university fees are capped at £9,000 per year; Welsh university fees are also capped at £9,000 per year, but Welsh students are also able to apply for fee grants of up to £5,190, in addition to a loan of £3,810 to cover these costs; Scotland has been highly praised by students for charging no university fees and Northern Ireland only charges its university students a maximum of £3,805. Furthermore, the British government has recently stated that as of 2017, high-ranking universities – primarily Russell Group universities – will be able to raise their respective tuition costs higher than the £9,000 cap. Factors given for this potential increase in tuition costs include student satisfaction, teaching quality and employment outcomes.
Put simply, the better the university, the higher the costs.

So is it really justified for these high-ranking universities to take more money out of their students’ pockets, thereby increasing their student debt? If so, will future would-be applicants be enticed into applying for university study? In 2016, the Guardian newspaper published a report that stated that the number of disadvantaged students applying for English universities has in fact increased by 72% from 2006 to 2015, beating the number of applicants for other universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Why is it that, despite their extremely high costs, English universities continue to attract not only British students, but also foreign students en masse? According to a number of governmental studies, the answer is simply that English universities are some of the most prestigious in the world and continue to offer an extremely high quality of education among its students. This is also reflected in the most recent drop-out statistics, which show that the student drop-out rate – since the tuition fees rose to £9,000 in 2010 – are at their lowest among English universities, especially among Russell Group and other high-ranking universities. This is in contrast to the increasing number of students dropping out of Scottish universities, which have since reached their highest levels in years.

Again, from this we can see that despite the increasing costs in university tuition, students continue to apply for English universities en masse. One theory is that the amount of debt that the student will eventually have to pay off is so high, it actually pushes the student to remain in university and work harder in order to achieve a better career with a high level of income, thereby making it easier to pay back their student debt.

For a student who is thinking about applying for university in Britain, the best advice anybody could give is that applying is quite possibly one of the best decisions a student can make in their entire academic life. Why? Because university – for all its high tuition costs and the future student debt that comes after graduation – provides the best education a student could possibly ever wish to get in whatever field of study they choose to pursue, and it opens so many doors for people in life that it is definitely worth the £9,000 a year – if you’re studying at an English or Welsh university. Especially with a strong postgraduate degree in the best fields of study, employment post-university will almost certainly provide a veteran student with income high enough to enable them to comfortably manage their student debts without so much worry and stress to hinder them in their respective future.

Author: Stefan Brakus

Monday, 16 May 2016

Day 2 of the EuroPeers 2nd annual network meeting

I gained new knowledge at the 2nd European Network meeting around Erasmus+ and its development. 

Erasmus+ delivered a 4day strategic coaching for fellow members and peers. We were given guidance around those that are willing or even thinking about joining the network and tips about how to stay equipped with knowledgeable experience; but most of all we were given the chance to gather globally and learn from one another. 

I learned from this network that mobility and sustainability is what matters most and that all you have to do is reach out and take a leap of faith whilst ensuring that your message is delivered with as much passion as you are Erasamized, starting from now. 


Friday, 13 May 2016

Day 1 of the EuroPeers 2nd annual network meeting

Hello from Poland!

Three members of EuroPeers UK arrived yesterday to beautiful Konstancin, not far from the Polish capital Warsaw. This place is famous for its fresh healing air and we are surrounded by the rustles of greenery and birds chirping away in the background - a perfect place for our EuroPeers second annual network meeting!

After a long and tiring day of travel for all of us, we enjoyed some Polish food and started getting to know the other participants through a creative evening of many different activities including games, collage and music! 

We started the first working day of the meeting off with a few energisers to get us going! This was followed by introductions from our Polish hosts, receiving our wonderful welcome packs and getting to know a bit more about the background and time line of the EuroPeers story so

We then split into smaller groups and started our 'EuroPeers Paths' activity where we discussed each other's experiences and involvement with EuroPeers and Erasmus+. We talked about our visions for the future of the network on personal, national and international levels.

In the afternoon we played a very interactive Erasmus+ game to learn more about the kind of activities that we could plan as EuroPeers and the tools that we could use! We reflected on the day with our travel mates - each of us had been matched up with two other EuroPeers who would be our companions for the duration of the meeting.

Tomorrow we look forward to lots more innovative workshops and inspiring discussions on the second day of our EuroPeers meeting!


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

EuroPeers UK event in cooperation with Solent University in Southampton

Ilona Kuzak, a member of the EuroPeers UK, in partnership with Southampton Solent University, is co-hosting a conference on opportunities for young people on Tuesday, May 3rd. Topics will include Erasmus+ and other European-funded opportunities, youth entrepreneurship, and more. Come join us at this event to learn about how you can take advantage of what the EU has to offer and take the next steps towards your career! Get a free ticket HERE

Friday, 15 April 2016

EuroPeers UK Launch Report

On the 30th March 2016, after months of coordination and organisation, EuroPeers and invited guests came together at Europe House to celebrate the launch of the EuroPeers UK network.

The launch was hosted by Abdul and Ellie, two EuroPeers UK steering group members.

Andrew Hadley, CEO of Momentum World, gave an impassioned speech about the importance of the EuroPeers UK, the objectives for the network, and how they plan on achieving said objectives.

The hosts then each gave a speech about why they decided to be involved in EuroPeers. Ellie touched on the importance of following your passion and working hard, while Abdul focused on how social action projects have changed him for the better.  Eddie from Lansons PR also spoke about how his experiences in Europe have enhanced his life.

There are hundreds of partner organizations in the UK making a positive impact on the lives of young people and representatives from two of these – Employability Town and The ASHA Centre came along to give a presentation on their astounding work.  Although different, they both carry out some great work to make big long-term transformations in the lives of young people.

Ilona, a EuroPeers steering group member, had just flown in from Poland but made sure that she was present to give a speech on her impressive experience in working with young people. She had also taken part in extensive training with the German branch of EuroPeers.

In order to give a more holistic view to the role of the EU, Dr. Andreas Staab who is Director of the European Policy Information Centre  gave a speech on his personal experience of living in the EU. He gave a balanced, and at times humorous recollection of his experiences!

Daniel Ambrus, Head of Communication at European Commission Representation UK also gave a well-balanced speech on his experiences of living in the EU.

Andrew Hadley gave a closing speech to emphasise the direction of EuroPeers UK, request feedback from attendees and thank stakeholders for making the event a success.

Attendees stayed on for an hour or so to network and discuss the launch and how they might be of assistance.

It was very encouraging to see the level of support offered from attendees and in the lead up to the event. Six months ago, the EuroPeers UK was just a name, small, and logo-less!

We would like to express our gratitude to the attendees, the EuroPeers UK steering group members, the European Commission Representation in London, Lansons PR, and Momentum World for providing significant resources to grow the EuroPeers UK network. Also along the way, other organizations have offered advice, which has proven useful.