The UK officially left the Erasmus+ programme on 1 January 2021.
The £110 million Turing scheme, named after the renowned codebreaker Alan Turing, will soon be introduced in its place, funding around 35,000 UK students per year to study abroad. Students will be able to apply for the Turing scheme from September 2021.
There are a few differences between the Erasmus+ programme and the Turing scheme that students should be aware of.
Unlike Erasmus, the Turing scheme hopes to fund exchanges with universities around the world, including the US and Canada. Its website highlights its objective to establish connections with non-European countries, which in turn contributes to the government’s commitment to a global Britain.
As part of its objectives to widen access, “the global nature of the Turing scheme will remove the language barrier for students who are not studying languages by vastly increasing the opportunities in English-speaking countries”. Of course this will provide a larger proportion of students with opportunities to go abroad.
The Turing scheme also promises to target students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The need to provide equal opportunities is something that many organisations, including universities, are trying to act on. Only a third of participating students on the Erasmus scheme come from a disadvantaged background, so time will tell whether the Turing scheme will reach more.
But will the funding be enough? Does it have the same foreign-language focus as Erasmus prioritised?
The financing of the Turing scheme has raised questions, as might be expected, from students on low budgets. While it seems it will allow more people to go abroad than Erasmus did (an anticipated increase of about 57 per cent on Erasmus in the 2018-19 academic year), its budget will have to be divided among more people.
The funding of £110 million among 35,000 students averages out at £335 to £380 a month towards living costs under the programme. Disadvantaged students will be eligible for an additional £110 a month. In the most recent academic year, the Erasmus grant averaged more than £3,000, with a monthly minimum of roughly £315.
However, the Erasmus+ programme provided students with funding to use towards their UK tuition fees, while the Turing scheme will not.
There are other concerns around the possibility that if the year abroad can’t be sufficiently funded, the number of applicants for language degrees will drop, as this is one of its main attractions. “It was the year abroad that drew me to my languages degree. It’s an opportunity to live abroad that I may not get the chance to do later on,” said Lucy Jennings, a student at the University of Cambridge on her year abroad in Paris.
Additionally, unlike Erasmus, it will not fund foreign students to come to the UK. From a cultural point of view, this one-way system will prevent us from continuing to enrich our community by welcoming students from abroad. Why should that be?
“Meeting international students has really enlightened my university experience,” said Jenny Khala, a graduate student at UCL. “I think it’s a real shame that future students might not have the same opportunity.”
By not giving foreign students the chance to study in the UK, we are putting a block in the development of a diverse and inclusive society.
It also still poses problems among university foreign language faculties who don’t want anglophone exchanges to be a priority. “University language departments should have had more of a say in this critical transition that affects us as students. The government aren’t always the right people to make decisions,” Lucy added.
Questions surrounding the reliability and effectiveness of the new Turing scheme do not ease the uncertainty due to the pandemic about upcoming year-abroad placements. While some changes could be positive, it remains to be seen whether students will take to the Turing scheme the same way they did to Erasmus+.