Sunday, May 16, 2010


A few years ago I was invited to attend a one week trip to Spain, paid for by some European grant. I was the UK rep and there were reps from each of the other 14 countries. It was a revelation, in that it was a complete waste of time. At the end of the fact-finding trip we got together to discuss our findings, which to paraphrase the discussion, showed that Spain was milking European grants like a starved piglet at the teat, but to no great effect in terms of entrepreneurial progress (the trip was about entrepreneurship). I was the only business person of the 14, and was politely told to forget the criticisms and write the report free from any negative conclusions. It was a shocking introduction to the neverneverland that is the Eurozone. As the Eurozone implodes in a sort of low key rerun of the second world war, one wonders what all that money spent on ‘euro-learning’ actually brought us?


Answer - nothing. Academics have been sqeezyjetting around Europe for years to conferences and meets that were little more than excuses for short-breaks or a nosh-up. The collaborative projects weren’t designed around competences or goals, merely a bunch of people who were good at form-filling. Then there’s that obnoxious group of middlemen, no better than street drug runners, who promise to get you a chunk of the motherload (for a fee of course). The whole sorry tale is one of useless research on useless projects set up by worse than useless hustlers. In practice, the real work was being done by hard-working people in real companies and organisations doing things with real people in the real world. European projects are like the Eurovision Song Contest, countries send their least talented people to a contest that is best known as a parody of the real world and the output is woeful. It used to be something to laugh at, now it’s a politicised, block vote idiotfest. I’m positive about Europe as a single market but sad that so much money has been spent with so little meaningful output.

One market myth

Europe is not a single market in education and training because people learn best in their first language, and in the UK we don’t have a second. Almost all education and training in Europe is delivered by local and national suppliers. To their credit, the only notable exception in the e-learning world is Edvantage. There has been this effort to create pan-European companies by supporting pan-European research, but it hasn’t worked. Giunti Labs seem to have been on some sort of permanent financial drip from Brussels, along with several other companies that would never have survived in the commercial world.

Let’s take the ‘E’ out of e-learning

ELEARNINGEUROPA, EU4ALL, ERGO, ECLO, ELIG, EDEN, EFQUEL, EIFEL, EMDEL and on and on it goes…..Dozens of crap acronyms all staring with ‘E’ and hundreds of administrators, unread reports, AGMs, meetings and conferences. When I ran an e-learning company I had absolutely nothing to do with any of these or any other European quangos. Have they delivered? I think not. Would the world miss them, I think not. Let’s take the ‘E’ out of e-learning – Europe that is!


Harold Jarche said...

Sounds even worse than the Canadian Council on Learning

Donald Clark said...

Hi Harold - Perhaps the 'globalisation' of useless projects! There's a book in this 'The World is Crap'!

Mark Berthelemy said...

I'm looking forward to see if anyone defends the European elearning projects. You're saying what I've been thinking for a long time.

Donald Clark said...

What's needed is a realistic audit. For years, people have been speaking with some disdain about this type of spend.

Unknown said...

Personally I'd much prefer a system based around 2 core principles: (1) funding commercial innovation; (2) funding social innovation. Forget matched funding, politically appealing consortiums, ridiculous bid processes, massively complex paperwork/systems/controls and stupidly long project durations and just ask:

1 - Is the project genuinely worth doing?
2 - will the organisation(s) have a good chance of succeeding?
3 - Give them tranched payments (100% of all real-world costs)
4 - Take a stake/revenue/other interest and look for a 5-10 year ROI for the greater European good
5 - Leave the organisation to it with only a base level of monitoring
6 - Build in a reward mechanic so that there is sustained motivation

Donald Clark said...

Agree on principles, but would prefer R&D tax breaks, as it's more direct, auditable and accountable. First move; STOP the current madness - it's just a nasty, stinking drain.

Donald Clark said...

True - he did the donkey work, the handlers took the loot!