Belfast Metropolitan College has secured a major funding boost to strengthen links with Hungary and institutions across Europe.
The College has been awarded €250,000 for two interlinking projects through Erasmus+, the European Union’s (EU) major funding programme for education, training, youth and sport, managed by the British Council and Ecorys UK, operating as UK’s National Agency.
Working alongside KJF University in Budapest, the first project focuses on digital media, with 40 journalism students from the college spending two weeks in Hungary over the next two years.
The aim of this initiative is to exchange and share digital, social media and journalism practices, as well as help the students learn about censorship and enhance long-term relationships with Hungary.
The college secured a further €175,000 for a two-year project which aims to promote peer learning between Northern Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Ireland.
As well as KJF University, this will see Belfast Met work in collaboration with City of Dublin Education and Training Board, Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania and AHE University, Lodz, Poland.
Through the project, vocational lecturers working in the IT, hospitality, creative service industries and management, will work together through informal learning opportunities to enhance technical and teaching skills.
Belfast Metropolitan College aims to create a tool kit which will help both vocational lecturers and management get accredited for informal continuous professional development, which they hope to roll out to all colleges in Northern Ireland, as well as share across the vocational and industrial sectors.
Speaking about the funding boost was Glenn McMahon, International Project Consultant at Belfast Met.
He said: “It is vitally important at Belfast Met for its staff and its students to engage with the EU and with its international partners through various programmes such as Erasmus+, Horizon 2020 and British Council’s International partnerships. These allow us to share good practice and enhance our progression, our versatility and our community.
“We are trying to create a diverse society and an environment for people to create innovative projects, and through working in partnerships; we can share the issues and challenges that we all face in Higher and Further Education.”
Ken Belshaw, Honorary Consul for Hungary in Northern Ireland, was delighted by the funding boost.
He said: “Nothing brings better long-term understanding and trust between two cultures than education. Belfast Met has a long history in outstanding practical courses, diplomas and training – and so does Hungary, with a long and proud tradition in third level education.
“It’s fundamentally important for two countries to collaborate on this level and I can guarantee in decades to come the benefits will be tremendous.”
Commenting on the value of working in Europe, was Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “Our international partnerships are at the heart of everything we do and initiatives such as Erasmus+ enable people to understand issues of worldwide importance, gain a sense of social responsibility and develop the skills they need to succeed in a global economy.
"In view of the results of the EU referendum, cultural connections between the UK and other European counties will be as important as ever. We will continue to work in partnership with other European countries and international institutions to create opportunities, build connections and engender trust."
The EU has committed £12 billion to Erasmus+ between 2014 and 2020. During this period Erasmus+ will provide opportunities for over 4,000,000 Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad. At present, there is no change to the UK’s participation in the Erasmus+ Programme following the EU referendum result and the UK National Agency will continue to manage and deliver the Programme across the UK.
All participants and beneficiaries should continue with their Erasmus+ funded activities and preparation for the published application deadlines - in 2016 and 2017.
The Erasmus+ Programme is just one of a number of programmes available through British Council Northern Ireland. For more information visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org,www.erasmusplus.org.uk or follow on Twitter at @BCouncil_NI