Study abroad: UK to spend £100 million on Erasmus+ replacement

Labour warns on uncertainty over future budget for student exchange

December 26, 2020
Student with backpack
Source: iStock

The UK will spend more than £100 million next year on the Turing scheme, the home-grown student mobility programme it is creating after opting against participating in the European Union’s Erasmus+.

The Turing scheme will provide funding for around 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to go on placements and exchanges overseas in 2021-22, the Westminster government said.

The initiative – named after computing pioneer Alan Turing – was announced after participation in Erasmus+ was excluded from the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

The move was controversial because UK prime minister Boris Johnson had said earlier this year that the country “will continue to participate” in Erasmus+.

UK negotiators had apparently regarded the cost of continuing to participate in Erasmus+ as being prohibitively high, and higher than the cost of the Turing scheme.

The Press Association reported that around 35,000 British students participate in Erasmus+ annually.

The Department for Education said that the Turing scheme “will provide similar opportunities for students to study and work abroad as the Erasmus+ programme but it will include countries across the world and aims to deliver greater value for money to taxpayers”.

“The new scheme will also target students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas which did not previously have many students benefiting from Erasmus+, making life-changing opportunities accessible to everyone across the country,” the ministry added.

Universities will be invited to bid to take part in the Turing scheme in early 2021. Successful applicants will receive funding to administer the scheme and students taking part will receive grants.

The budget for the Turing scheme in future years “will be subject to future spending reviews”, the DfE said.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said that the UK had “the chance to expand opportunities to study abroad and see more students from all backgrounds benefit from the experience”.

“We have designed a truly international scheme which is focused on our priorities, delivers real value for money and forms an important part of our promise to level up the United Kingdom,” he said. 

“These opportunities will benefit both our students and our employers, as well as strengthening our ties with partners across the world.”

Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, said that the government had “needlessly pulled the UK out of the scheme which has successfully increased opportunities and understanding across Europe”.

“It must urgently provide full details to universities, schools, colleges and students on how the replacement Turing scheme will work and ensure that no young person loses out on study opportunities abroad,” Ms Green said. 

“Young people must not see their opportunities reduced and subjecting the Turing scheme to future spending review decisions will increase uncertainty for organisations and young people.”

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, had previously described the UK’s withdrawal from Erasmus+ as “disappointing” but described the Turing scheme as a “fantastic development”.

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