Outside Experts Enhance Teaching at Birmingham

Former MEP Malcolm Harbour participated in four classes of the undergraduate module 'Europeanization'. During the final session before Christmas, for instance, Malcolm not just described to the second year students a typical day in the life of a MEP, he highlighted the increasing powers and importance of the parliament within the political system of the European Union with some telling anecdotes of his 14 years (1999-2014) as an MEP. The class then compared the nature of political processes in the British Parliament and the European Parliament; the latter being more policy-oriented and consensual.

In the first session of the spring term, Malcolm introduced the practical dimensions of Committee work in the Parliament, helping the students prepare for a simulation exercise, in which the students assume the roles of Committee members of the Legal Affairs Committee to discuss a proposed Directive of the European Commission. Malcolm shared his insights of the procedures from his time as chair of the influential Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

In a session in February, Malcolm was joined by the Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability at Alcatel-Lucent, Christine Diamante for a simulation of the Legal Affairs Committee. Christine began the session with a presentation of the average day of a corporate lobbyist in Brussels (she was the former Director of European Affairs at Alcatel-Lucent) before the simulation commenced with political statements of all Committee members, followed by a focused hearing and finally an amendment session chaired by Malcolm.

As Julian Paenke who convenes the module explained, "All session were a great experience for the students as they gained insights in the daily routines of political work in the European Union. The simulation was evaluated very positively. Some students even contacted 'their' local MEPs and received feedback to prepare their roles as close to reality as possible."

Malcom Harbour and Christine Diamante are not the only practitioners to contribute to the teaching of politics students in Birmingham this term. Andrew Lebrecht, a former UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, spoke on the EU's role in the implementation in meeting Kyoto climate change targets to students on the Global Co-operation in Practice MA module convened by Professor Mark Webber. Moreover, Dominic Brett, the Head of Public Affairs at the European Parliament Information Office in the UK will speak later this month to students on the Introduction to the European Union module taught by Dr Tim Haughton.