Peter Kirk (1928 - 1977)
The Peter Kirk scholarships were endowed to commemorate the work of the late Sir Peter Kirk MP, leader of the first British team in the European Parliament. Peter Kirk's commitment to the cause of a unified Europe began early in his life. As a schoolboy during the Second World War, taught by refugees from the Nazi tyranny, and afterwards as an undergraduate at Oxford, he came to appreciate that only a Europe united by consent, rather than by force, could survive external pressures and dangers.
He was a student at Zurich University in the summer of 1946 and heard Winston Churchill deliver his momentous call for a United States of Europe. From then on, Peter Kirk never doubted where his role lay and he was determined to play a part in such development. When he entered parliament in 1955, the youngest MP in the House of Commons, he was soon appointed to the British delegation to the Council of Europe. His experience and profound knowledge of Europeans and their thinking were unique.
He was a Minister in the 1963 and 1970 Governments, and was the obvious choice of the then Prime Minister to lead the first British team into the European Parliament when the United Kingdom joined the European Community in January 1973. His impact never waned and nowhere was his influence more significant than with young people. However busy he was, however full his diary, it was requests from schools and universities which received priority. His effectiveness with the lay in his ability to communicate with, rather than talk to, them. He was never pompous. He died in April 1977, aged 48.
His many friends agreed that Peter Kirk would wish that any memorial to him should help young people towards that same understanding of other Europeans and European affairs. The scholarship fund was launched in April 1978.
The scholarships are given each year to help young people increase their understanding of modern Europe by undertaking an independent study project abroad.