It began in 1992. Schools were opening doors to boys and girls from behind the erstwhile “Iron Curtain”. The Berlin Wall was down and the frontiers of Europe once again open enough to allow the
general population to rediscover their continent and one another. It was at this exciting time that an HMC scheme to enable talented students from the former communist countries to spend a year studying in a UK boarding school was established, “to foster bonds of understanding, trust and friendship between some of the most gifted young people across Europe”. Unashamedly the scheme
sought to identify the ablest of applicants from less affluent backgrounds.
In September of this year 90 new students started at 50 schools, mainly HMC but also some state boarding, GSA and Society of Heads’ schools. 60 of this year’s scholars have been awarded 100% scholarships; 30 are in the UK on generously subsidised places. From 13 countries (BosniaHerzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine) these students are the latest in a line of nearly 1,400 young people who since the scheme was established have spent one or now increasingly two years of the sixth form at a UK boarding school.
The situation in Europe today offers little cause for complacency. Recent horrifying events in Ukraine (quite apart from political and social unrest in several countries) have focussed the spotlight once again on former east bloc countries and highlighted the fragility of some of these fledgling democracies. This in turn re-emphasises just how relevant and noble are the original aims of the scholarship scheme.
The HMC scheme was established just over twenty years ago as a way of investing in the peace and security of the world in which our pupils will live in the decades to come.
Nothing that is happening in Europe today suggests that that aim is any less relevant today than it was twenty years ago.
Read more in issue 3 of Insight (p20)