Government Urged to Maintain Erasmus Exchange Programme

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

Brexit minister David Davis is being urged to protect the UK's participation in the £112m EU student exchange scheme, as fears grow that the country could be locked out of the programme after Brexit.

The leaders of the Erasmus programme fear that the scheme will not be at the front of mind once Brexit negotiations take place, and that the programme, which has been going for 30 years will therefore cease to exist.

The Erasmus Plus programme allows students to study in one of 33 European countries for free for up to one year, with funding coming from the EU to cover costs. According to Ruth Sinclair-Jones from the British Council, Erasmus Plus is important as it has a direct impact on students and the economy.

Universities waive fees as part of the scheme and the EU picks up the bill for travel and living expenses, making the programme one of the biggest sources of funding for studying abroad.

Over 200,000 students have taken part in the scheme since its inception in 1987, with 15,000 UK students having participated in the last academic year. Importantly a further 7,000 staff also studied abroad in 2015/16.

This year's EUR 130m budget to cover UK students overseas has already been agreed by the UK, with funding expected to rise 10% a year until 2020.

The scheme remains extremely popular and is oversubscribed by a factor of two to one. According to the European commission's Erasmus impact study, benefits to those who take part include the fact that young people who study or train abroad are twice as likely to find employment quickly, their academic results are typically stronger, and they tend to have higher wages five years on.

One possible option for remaining a member of the scheme outside of the EU would be for funding to come directly from the exchequer and universities, the same way in which Macedonia, Iceland, Turkey, Liechtenstein and Norway currently participate.