Middlesex was among the first UK institutions to join in the Erasmus student exchange programme, with 150 students taking part in six of the initial one-year projects in 1987. It is now one of the leading UK participants: last session saw well over 400 students taking part in 43 inter-university cooperation programmes. The largest number of programmes were in the business school and technology faculty but this has changed over the past five years, with the subject spread now spanning all of the university's six faculties.
Under the new Socrates arrangements, the university will be able to arrange exchange visits in any of its subjects. The majority of visits are to Spain, France and Germany, made by language students and those on bilateral joint degrees in business management. Students on individually tailored visits tend to go to northern Europe, attracted by institutions which can offer some teaching in English.
But students also go to southern Europe: a number of them have a Greek background and head for Greek universities. Middlesex student grants have totalled Ecus 2.2 million between 1990/91 and 1995/96, but Mike Dawney, head of the European office, stresses that there is no financial incentive behind the scheme since, unless the flows of incoming and outgoing students are balanced evenly, the UK's popularity among other European students can mean serious deficits.
Middlesex itself operates a strict quota system. Most areas of work now have a European dimension, and exchange students are better equipped culturally, linguistically and intellectually for these wider job opportunities.
"We feel that all members of the academic community here benefit from the cultural and intellectual stimulation this provides, and it enables us to feel part of a more extensive 'community of ideas' not limited by national policies," said Mr Dawney.
Middlesex currently has around 300 Erasmus partners from most member states, but will reduce these to around 115 under the new Socrates arrangements, when each institution will have budgetary responsibility, rather than each ICP having one lead institution. But it still expects to send and receive around 500 students annually, backed by staff exchanges.
Middlesex also offers "intensive programmes", short courses run by a subject network, usually for advanced students. It coordinates a programme in the European Network for Media and Cultural Studies for up to 200 students from nine member states, and has six partners in a programme for masters and research students in criminology and the sociology of deviance.