Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
Colin first started taking advantage of the Erasmus programme ten years ago and was keen to learn about different approaches to both social work practice and training students in Antwerp, Belgium. He usually goes for five to six days at a time and over the years he has been involved in teaching, student placement support, meetings, involvement in intensive study programmes and much more.
His Erasmus experience has allowed him to both expose students to methods and approaches to practice that challenge UK orthodoxies and also to bring new concepts to enhance course content back in his home institution. This adds a comparative and critical dimension to the programme that really enhances it for post-graduates and has been identified as a commendable aspect of the course in the process of reviews by both the national professional body and the university’s internal review system.
English speaking in Flanders is so widespread he has no language difficulties and enjoys the cultural and culinary delights the region has to offer, especially the beer, waffles and chocolate! He also praises the public transport system and flat countryside, particularly important to him as he suffers from a walking disability.
The impact of the experiences in, for example, the area of asylum seeking, has yielded a number of dissertations and some specialist practitioners in that field of practice. The course has a European dimension to it that has evolved and developed over the years of his Belgian connections. The Robert Gordon University maintains close relations with institutes elsewhere in Europe, in the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland and all of that feeds into its courses, but Belgium remains at the centre of it all.
Colin strongly believes that as well as benefiting his institution it has been a huge benefit to him personally and professionally, by providing fresh ideas, valid alternatives and a much more European perspective, “I think it has given me a broader and more critical capacity to appraise professional practice here because I now know of effective alternatives. I think also now that I’m near retirement it has helped to keep my outlook fresh and positive. I honestly feel it has been life enhancing”.