Turing scheme launches with 120 universities on board

Australia, Canada and US confirmed as potential exchange destinations, alongside key European sectors

August 4, 2021
Student with backpack
Source: iStock

More than 120 UK universities have signed up to the Turing scheme, the student mobility programme that replaces the country’s participation in the European Union’s Erasmus+.

The Department for Education said on 4 August that the grants it was awarding would enable 28,000 university students to study abroad from September, which it said was an increase from 18,300 under Erasmus+ in 2018-19.

Covid restrictions permitting, they will be able to head to more than 150 countries, including popular Erasmus+ destinations such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain, and non-EU nations including Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand and the US.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said the £110 million scheme “helps a new generation grasp opportunities beyond Europe’s borders”.

The DfE claimed that about half of all places were expected to go to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and funding has been targeted at areas such as the Midlands and the north of England that traditionally had low Erasmus+ take-up.

Students from poorer backgrounds will get funding to cover expenses such as travel and visas, and all participants will receive a living costs grant.

However, critics have highlighted that the Turing scheme does not include an automatic tuition fee waiver, meaning that universities will have to strike such agreements with international partner institutions.

Experts told Times Higher Education in January that this could be financially tricky if there are big price discrepancies between countries’ tuition fees.

And, unlike Erasmus+, the Turing scheme does not provide support for students coming to the UK on exchanges.

Mr Williamson said: “The chance to work and learn in a country far from home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – which broadens minds, sharpens skills and improves outcomes.

“But until now it has been an opportunity disproportionately enjoyed by those from the most privileged backgrounds. The Turing scheme has welcomed a breadth of successful applications from…across the country, reflecting our determination that the benefits of Global Britain are shared by all.

“By strengthening our partnerships with the finest institutions across the globe, the Turing scheme delivers on the government’s post-Brexit vision and helps a new generation grasp opportunities beyond Europe’s borders.”

Under the Turing scheme, the minimum duration of a university placement has been reduced to four weeks – from three months under Erasmus+ – to make going abroad accessible. Research published by Universities UK International (UUKi) last month found that students who made a short trip overseas still reported a boost to their skills and confidence in their academic ability.

Vivienne Stern, UUKi’s director, said she wanted “more students from a wider range of backgrounds to get these sorts of opportunities”.

“We know from the evidence we have collected that students who have such experience tend to do better academically and in employment outcomes – and that this is especially true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” she said.

Once students from schools and further education colleges are including, the Turing scheme should support 40,000 students to study and work abroad, the government said.

But Matt Western, the shadow universities minister, said the government’s “rhetoric on the Turing scheme does not match the reality”.

“Ministers are claiming to be targeting disadvantaged students, but their scheme provides no support to cover tuition fees, which will make accessing this incredible opportunity impossible for many students,” he said.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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