This month has taken me first to Romania where I had the pleasure of presiding over the awards ceremony for some 80 Open University graduates and Diplomates from our Business School partnership with CODECS. This is a fascinating organisation that was founded after the big change in political system in the country: the CS in the last part of the title refers to ‘Civil Society’. Over the last 15 years of partnership with the Open University they have contributed a huge amount to the management capacity of the country needed to develop new social and organisational models. There is still the enthusiasm of a pioneering group of staff and indeed of students. This was also my first visit to Bucharest, which has some beautiful large houses and villas, often in a nineteenth century French style with oyster windows in the roofs, set in wide boulevards, along side and in-between some huge and less attractive housing blocks. In the distance from almost anywhere lies what is now the huge Parliament building, monument to the grandiosity of the former Ceausescu regime that was bizarre even by the standards of the time. While in the UK the economic crisis has been bad, it is clear to me that the impact on the economies of some countries it is a great deal worse. For those of us trying to work with organisations to sponsor students for learning and development, this represents a very considerable barrier.
Later in the month I made a short trip to Beijing, this time to the Second Forum for International Educational Leaders at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). I spoke there about the work we are doing at the Open University in developing our engagement with employers, in very related ways to the work I was witnessing in Romania. There was considerable interest in this from Chinese colleagues at UIBE, who not only have a campus based programme in their field, but also a large scale on-line distance education programme across the whole of China. I was able to sign a partnership agreement with UIBE for the Open University for the use of some of our Continuing Professional Development courses, which they will deliver on-line in the Chinese language. They were kind enough to given me a scroll painting, and chose one of a bridge to represent the links between our institutions, cultures and countries.
These tasks of building and renewing the skills and competences of people in the workplace face us to all across Europe, and I am clear from this as well as other visits to China that the combination of energy, resources and organisation makes that country determined and able to move fast down this track. UIBE’s President Shi was clear in his address to the conference that embedding innovation and creativity in their education at all levels must be the next task, a language that is familiar from the European Commission and national governments across both continents. EDEN has great potential in bringing people together to provide a network for the energy and resources that we need to combine together, working as we must across the complexities of competition and co-operation within Europe and around the world.