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Dates of existence
The Educational Interchange Council was established in Vienna in 1947 'to promote and assist educational and cultural visits and exchanges of all kinds' between Britain and other European countries. It grew out of the educational side of the relief and reconstruction work carried out by the Society of Friends, the British Council and other bodies in post-war Europe. The first exchanges were between Austria and Britain but, in 1948, the organisation's work was extended to Germany and Czechoslovakia and its headquarters transferred to Parliament Street, London, and then to 43 Russell Square, London in 1963, under the presidency of Professor Sir Robert Birley (formerly Educational Adviser to the Control Commission in Germany), the chairmanship of Mr Frank E. Bell OBE, Director of the Bell Educational Trust, Cambridge and Concord College, Shrewsbury, and the treasurership of Sir Frank Kenyon Roberts (formerly Her Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow and in Bonn) under the patronage of the major religious and political leaders.
In 1950 the Council was incorporated as a Limited Company under the Companies Act 1948 and registered as an educational charity by the Department of Education and Science. A later petition for the grant of a Royal Charter of Incorporation was unsuccessful in 1971.
The Council was a representative body whose member organisations were drawn from seventy of the principal associations, societies, institutions, committees and unions concerned with educational and cultural affairs, including youth organisations and the youth service. They elected an Executive Committee each year, which decided policy and directed the Council's work. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Council, the Department of Education and Science (through the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges) and the Trades Union Congress were represented on the Executive Committee by observers. The Council's Honorary officers (the president, chairman and treasurer) were supported by nine vice-presidents, including Richard Rowntree. The Council was funded partly by the administrative charges it made on some of its operations and partly by grants and donations from industrial and educational trusts.
By the late 1960s, the Council was made up of four operational departments which dealt with schools; colleges and universities; professional and specialist groups; and voluntary youth organisations and services. In 1969 the Council arranged visits and exchanges between Britain and twenty-two other countries.
The Schools Department arranged language courses and home-to-home exchanges for French, German, Austrian, Dutch, Yugoslav and British pupils, and courses and placements in schools for foreign teachers.
The University Department arranged exchanges for British, German and French education students, and exchange visits between Britain, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria under the agreed programmes of cultural exchanges made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council. The Educational Interchange Council also placed foreign students at English language schools, provided its own courses, and placed gifted German students at British Universities. The Council was represented on the Consultative Committee on Latin-American Student Tours and the Consultative Committee on European Student Tours and assisted in arranging programmes for students subsidised by these bodies.
The Specialist Study Tours Department arranged detailed study programmes for professional and specialist groups (including lawyers, doctors, government officials, architects, accountants, social workers, youth workers, teachers, veterinarians, engineers and technicians) from many different countries.
The Youth Department provided opportunities for young people aged 17 to 25 years to travel abroad, arranging all non-student exchanges with the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, By 1978 the Youth Department had split into the Eastern European Department, which was concerned with youth exchanges to Eastern Europe and China, and the Youth and Community Department, which dealt with the small amount of Western European Work formerly undertaken by the Youth Department and aimed to develop exchange programmes with all parts of the world, except Eastern Europe and China. By the early 1970s the Educational Interchange Council was promoting and assisting study visits to and from 22 countries in Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America and Asia.
In 1966 the Council submitted proposals to the Department for Education and Science and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the establishment of a Youth Travel Office for Britain. The project got underway in 1968, sponsored by the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations, the Youth Department of the British Council of Churches and other bodies. A Travel Department was in existence by 1978. These departments were supported by a print department and an accounts department.
In 1972 the Educational Interchange Council became the first voluntary body in Britain to experience a strike initiated by some staff members (as part of a dispute with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staff), which led to the resignation of the General Secretary, Trefor Rendall-Davies in February 1974. This, alongside inflation, general recession, and poor booking-keeping saw the Council fall into difficulties and the Council went into voluntary liquidation on 30 November 1979.
After the EIC fell into liquidation there were several attempts to resurrect 'the EIC phoenix'. In 1980, a committed core of EIC officials promoted the establishment of a revitalised EIC operating under the guise of Specialist Study Tours International operated by the Bell Educational Trust (an attempt which collapsed by 1983), whilst Trefor Rendell Davies attempted to establish the Cultural Interchange Service as a new umbrella organisation to replace the EIC.
After its liquidation Frank Bell arranged for the residual funds of the EIC to be entrusted to the Rowntree Social Services Trust to be made available if a successor organisation was formed. He deemed this to be appropriate since Richard Rowntree was 'the virtual founder of the EIC'. Between 1983 and 1985 Frank Bell, and Richard Rowntree proposed setting up a new Anglo-Russian Language Institution using the residual funds of the former EIC, and in 1988-1989 Richard Rowntree and Frank Bell put together a proposal to the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Charitable Trust for the Joint Soviet/British Curriculum Development Project to be funded by EIC residual funds.