The Loss Of Erasmus: A Mistake, Or An Opportunity?

Abbie Turner

As a language student, I think the new Turing scheme holds exciting opportunities for UK students to participate in study or work placements all around the world. However, it is hard to make an informed decision about whether the loss of the Erasmus+ scheme is a mistake when we have been told very little so far about its replacement.

The Erasmus exchange programme, which the UK has been a part of since its introduction in 1987, allows students and trainees to work and study across Europe. According to the European Commission’s report, during the previous seven-year funding cycle (2007-2013) there were just under 5,000 Higher Education Institutes participating in the scheme across the 34 countries and over six million have benefitted since the beginning of the programme.

Boris Johnson made what he described as the “tough decision” to withdraw the UK from the Erasmus+ scheme

Speaking at a press conference from inside Downing Street in December 2020, Boris Johnson made what he described as the “tough decision” to withdraw the UK from the Erasmus+ scheme after the Brexit transition period ended. The main factor behind the decision to leave was financial as the European Commission proposed to double the funding for the next cycle (2021-2027) from the current £14 billion to £27 billion. The Prime Minister claimed that the UK “loses out” financially because of the larger number of incoming EU nationals studying in the UK through the scheme.

The Erasmus+ scheme will now be replaced in the UK by a new worldwide programme named after Alan Turing (one of the most influential code breakers of WWII) which seems to be focused on the outward mobility of UK students. It is said they are set to commit £100 million to the new Turing scheme.

Many have expressed their disappointment in the decision with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling the decision “cultural vandalism”, whilst Labour Co-operative MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle tweeted that “a one-sided scheme leaves the UK poorer and students with less opportunities.”

But could the new scheme be a success?

Speaking to the cohort of language students currently on their year abroad, the majority said their placement decision was influenced by the fact they could get a grant if they studied/worked in Erasmus funded countries. Many also commented that if they could have received a grant to take up a placement in a non-European country they would have done so. With this in mind, the Turing scheme seems more appealing as in theory it will allow more students to travel across the globe. This is something which might have seemed impossible without the reassurance of a grant for many students.

It seems daunting for new students with their year abroad coming up to wonder what the opportunities will be

Of course, there has always been the option to take up placements in non-EU countries for language students (such as going to Argentina to help improve your Spanish) however the inconvenience of applying for a visa has been something standing in the way for many students. However, due to Brexit, UK students will now have to apply for visas for their year abroad anyway and so it might not seem like such a big obstacle.

It seems daunting now for students with their year abroad coming up to wonder what the opportunities will be, however it could be very exciting.

Although there have been suggestions that it may become easier for non-EU countries to participate in the Erasmus+ scheme, nothing has been agreed yet. This is already the case for some countries known as programme members, these include Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Serbia who pay to participate fully in the Erasmus+ scheme. So it is possible that the UK could become a paying programme member in the future, but they would need to do so before the start of the next seven-year cycle or UK students cannot participate.

For the time being it is hard to tell what the loss of Erasmus will mean for future language students and I think it’s too soon to make such a statement. However, I think we should look at the Turing scheme with a sense of optimism and hope that the Government can give us some clarity soon to what the new scheme plans to offer.

Abbie Turner

Featured image courtesy of Francesca Tirico via Unsplash. Image licence found hereNo changes were made to the image.

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