In September of this year, I attended a workshop organised by UACES/BACES on ‘Teaching and Learning with Impact’, looking at how European studies courses could be building in elements that enhance the employability of their students. Or put more simply, how will doing European studies help me get a job?
At the time I mentioned the Mock Council that we do every year with sixth formers and wondered aloud whether this might be an activity that could be adapted for universities. A little while later I got a call from John FitzGibbon who had attended the workshop, picking me up on the idea and suggesting trying it out at his university, Canterbury Christ Church.
So today I got up way earlier than usual to get a train to Canterbury. The first session was a briefing session for interested students taking part in the simulation, at which I was also invited to talk about about what it is like working for the EU. I then spoke to another group about the same thing. Then, after lunch in the staff canteen with John and his colleagues, it was into the simulation exercise.
John had decided to use the EU budget as the subject for the debate. It’s one that works well because it highlights just how many different opinions there are that have to be reconciled to reach an agreement, depending on whether you are a net recipient or contributor, how agricultural your economy is, how global your outlook, your domestic economic or political situation. And it’s decided under unanimity! The pre-event banter on Twitter had been very competitive, so I stressed that this wasn’t an exercise where there would be a winner, but that we were trying to find an agreement that we could all live with.
I was very impressed with the way the students flung themselves into it. They had clearly done the research about the countries they were allocated and played their roles with conviction. I dare to hope that it brought home to them in a concrete way the complexity of negotiations among 28 very different countries. Quite apart from providing a different perspective on their learning about the EU, I think it will also have allowed them to demonstrate some of the skills that employers will be looking for – negotiation, communication, problem-solving and the difficult art of compromising. Finland cannot go unmentioned for their ability to come in with a suggestion that moved the discussion forward every time it seemed to hit a stalemate! There was lots of tweeting going on, using the hashtag #eusimgame if you’re interested in taking a look. I’ll just give you a flavour…
So as a pilot, I think it went quite well, even though it couldn’t ever be totally satisfactory, in dealing with level of detail and of course preparation time and time for the exercise to take place. I’m looking forward to hearing what comes up in the feedback session next week. My first reaction, and I think that of John as well, was that this was a valuable practical exercise for the students. I hope this is something we can work on recreating in other European Studies departments.