Monday 21 September 2015

OVER 500 health and social care trainees and professionals working with vulnerable people will benefit from an innovative University-led Erasmus+ project using artificial intelligence for training.

The University of the West of Scotland co-ordinating the ‘Digital Bridges’ project, and Glasgow youth organisation Xchange Scotland, are two projects successful in securing European Union (EU) funding through the Erasmus+ programme. 

The two organisations’ Erasmus+ projects will be showcased at the first annual Erasmus+ conference to be held in Scotland. Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme for education, training, youth and sport, with the EU committing £12 billion to the programme between 2014 and 2020. In the UK, the programme is managed by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. 155 projects in Scotland share €12.9m* of EU funding in Erasmus+ projects for 2014.

The Erasmus+ annual conference takes place at Edinburgh’s John McIntyre Conference Centre on 22 September with the conference theme of ‘My Story’. The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and Xchange Scotland will be amongst other organisations speaking about their Erasmus+ projects and sharing their experiences on the impact of taking part in the programme.

UWS was allocated more than €1m in funding in 2014 for four projects including the ‘Digital Bridges’ project -  Simulated Practice for Skills Development in Social Services and Healthcare, where they are working with the Scottish Social Services Council and other partners in Finland, Italy and Lithuania.  

Professor Thomas Connolly, EU Project Coordinator, said: “The importance of health and social services is increasing as European society grows older. This growing demand for public services is creating unprecedented pressures on health and social care systems.

“In many parts of Europe, the health and social care sector has a strong emphasis on learning and assessing skills for job roles in real practice environments in which in some qualifications can be almost 40% of the total learning time. Finding placement opportunities is difficult and there are risks associated with work-based learning and the safety and well-being of vulnerable service users. 

“To address these challenges, this project will develop an immersive 3D virtual environment, built on gaming architecture and driven by emotional artificial intelligence, to provide a risk-free environment where university and vocational education and training students and professional social workers who deal with vulnerable people can learn the basics of the job role, by interacting with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in a simulation of a real world service.” It is expected that 500 higher education and vocational education and training students and social services professionals will be trained using the game. 

In 2014, Erasmus+ provided funding for schools, colleges, universities, youth and adult education organisations across the length and breadth of Scotland, from Dumfries to the Shetland Islands. 

Youth organisation Xchange Scotland is one of the 12 exhibitors at the conference. Since 2007 Xchange Scotland has taken part in various EU programmes, from the predecessor programme Youth in Action to current programme Erasmus+, to provide invaluable experiences to young people aged 17 to 30 years old, from socially deprived areas of Scotland. 

Xchange Scotland will receive more than €42,000 to run three Erasmus+ projects in 2015. Through the Erasmus+ projects that Xchange Scotland runs, growing numbers of young people are given the chance to take part in European Voluntary Service (EVS), for a few weeks at a time, with other European voluntary organisations. 

Through their Step-by-Step programme, care leavers have spent time in France, Italy and Spain to develop their confidence and transferable skills. After their voluntary service, Xchange Scotland works alongside the young people to prepare them for future employment, training, education or apprenticeships in Scotland. 

In October, a 15-strong group of 18-21 year olds from Springburn, Glasgow will be taking part in a youth exchange with young people from France for a project on European Citizenship and Intercultural Education, with the young people coming from deprived areas of both countries. A similar project is planned for next year with young people from Greece.

Like UWS, Xchange Scotland has also started a health and social care project, sending young people on longer term EVS of up to a year, in humanitarian centres in Bosnia and Georgia, to develop the young people’s experience of social and public health careers, through creating community projects tackling sectarianism. 

Carla Fyfe, Xchange Scotland Acting Director said, “In the last two years we have seen an increase in the number of young Scottish people from all walks of life who want to take part in longer term European Voluntary Service (EVS). The young people include college leavers and care leavers, those on a sabbatical from managerial roles and higher education students on a gap year. Numbers have grown from 7 in 2013 to 25 this year and those who take part contribute to the social and economic fabric of Scotland when they return. A recent Social Return on Investment study found that for the investment of sending 30 young people on EVS, the investment is returned by a ratio of 8.57 to 1. Though the statistics measure the difference the project makes – the real value is in the increased confidence and skills of the young people, which breeds more opportunities for them.” 


For more information about funding opportunities visit see or use the hashtag #epluspeople to see what other projects are doing across the UK.



Notes to Editor

Most project funding figures are rounded up or down to the nearest thousand.

*€12.9m is based on the figure allocated to Scottish organisations in rounds 1, 2 and 3 in 2014, according to the UK National Agency’s September 2015 final report on funded project statistics: 2014 Call Rounds 1, 2 and 3. (Ref: SR05-2014)

Most of Scotland’s larger higher education institutions took part in the programme to support their students and staff to study, teach and work abroad, but many smaller or specialised institutions also benefited from funding, including The Scottish Association For Marine science LBG in Oban, The Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland in Glasgow and Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. The Scottish Wildlife Trust received youth funding to support their project ‘Conserving Scottish Wildlife’. New College Lanarkshire received funding for their projects ‘Personal Autonomy and Social Competences for Special Needs Students’ and ‘Mobility Opportunities Boosting Investment in Lanarkshire to Inspire VET learners To Improve Employability and Skills’. Several football organisations including, Aberdeen Football Club and The Scottish Football Association, based in Glasgow, were both awarded funding for vocational education and training projects. Around 70 schools and colleges in Scotland received Erasmus+ to fund a wide variety of mobility and partnership projects, such as Wellington School in Ayr for their partnership project, ‘Art Nouveau, Art renouvea’.

1. About Erasmus+

Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020. It significantly increases EU funding (+40%) with an overall budget of €14.7 billion (£12 billion) for the development of knowledge and skills and aims to increase the quality and relevance of qualifications and skills. Two-thirds of its funding will provide grants for more than 4 million people to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad in 2014-2020 (compared with 2.7 million in 2007-2013). The period abroad can range from a few days up to a year. In the UK, it is expected that nearly 250,000 people will undertake activities abroad with the programme. Erasmus+ aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of Lifelong Learning, including schools education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector. Erasmus+ provides funding for organisations to offer opportunities to students, teachers, apprentices, volunteers, youth leaders and people working in grassroots’ sport. It will also provide funding for partnerships between organisations such as educational institutions, youth organisations, enterprises, local and regional authorities and NGOs, as well as support for reforms in Member States to modernise education and training and to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and employability. Erasmus+ replaces the former Erasmus, Comenius, Youth in Action, Leonardo, Grundtvig and Transversal programmes which ran from 2007-2013.

The programme is managed in the UK by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, which is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. 

Further information from 

2. About Ecorys UK

Ecorys UK, part of the international research, consulting and management services company Ecorys, provides high-quality communication, research and technical assistance services across education, economic and social policy areas. Ecorys employs over 150 staff in the UK specialising in education and culture, employment and labour markets, economic and international development, communications, public grant managed programmes and capacity building. Our mission is to add value to public service delivery through our experience of the entire policy cycle. 

Further information from



About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes. We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally. For more information, please visit: