Tuesday 23-02-2021 - 15:48
This is a policy passed by NUS National Conference 2021
What is the issue facing students?
• The Erasmus+ programme provides opportunities for students to study, train, and work in 34 European Union and associated countries, which are full participants in the programme, and up to 156 countries elsewhere in the world.
• Following the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, the UK will no longer be able to participate in Erasmus+, meaning opportunities for both inbound and outbound study exchange in Europe are at risk.
• The UK’s planned replacement programme, the Turing scheme, is not a ‘like-for-like’ replacement for Erasmus+. It is reported that vocational education opportunities will not be supported under the new scheme. It is likely that this difference will disproportionately affect students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
• A report from the House of Lords EU Services sub-committee highlighted that the multiple benefits of the Erasmus+ programme would be extremely difficult to replicate with a new national programme.
• Erasmus+ is an integral part of language degrees in the UK and contributes heavily to the promotion of languages in our education institutions – more than half (53 per cent) of UK-domiciled students who study abroad do so through Erasmus+.
• According to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Turing scheme will not enable staff mobility or provide funding for inbound mobility. This leads to doubts surrounding the perceived attractiveness of participating in such a scheme for international HE institutions, considering the Turing scheme is not planning for reciprocal action of providing funding for inbound students.
• Moreover, from 2021-2022, EU students who want to study for over 6 months in the UK will be expected to pay international fees and apply for a visa (costing around £800 including a health surcharge). This creates another barrier for disadvantaged groups and may present the UK as a less attractive option for EU students looking to study abroad. In this case, the UK may miss out on the enriching experience of hosting thousands of EU students each year.
• British home students wanting to study in EU countries for longer than 90 days will have to adhere to different immigration processes and may have to apply for a visa. It is unclear what this process will look like and may involve complicated procedures for visa applications and incur additional costs.
• Concerns have been raised by educators in the HE sector around the Turing scheme being a) underfunded and b) ‘half-baked’ with many gaps. The new scheme needs to provide a well-rounded programme and ensure that the absence of Erasmus+ in the UK does not reduce the amount of engagement in exchange programmes from students, including engagement in European language courses.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
• NUS UK believes in a transformational educational experience that provides opportunities for all, regardless of background or identity.
• In 2017, 16,561 UK-domiciled students participated in Erasmus+.
• The UK is the third most popular destination for incoming students with 31,396 students coming to study or complete a traineeship in 2018-19. Our whole society benefits from the addition of exchange students in our communities.
• Over its lifetime of 30 years, Erasmus – which in 2014 evolved into Erasmus+ – has made learning mobility easy, invented patterns of educational cooperation and extended its approach into sport and the youth area. It delivers economies of scale for Erasmus mobility grants, joint master degrees, cooperation projects including capacity building in knowledge alliances with business, collaborative partnerships in the field of sport and policy reform with a focus on youth.
• Moreover, Erasmus+ is not only for students studying degree courses, the scheme allows for vocational opportunities and the free movement of teachers to train and teach across the EU.
• The House of Lords EU-Services sub-committee report noted that leaving Erasmus+ would "disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities".
• A student’s educational experience is transformed by the international outlooks of their EU domicile peers.
• The UK’s planned ‘Turing scheme’ is due to launch in September 2021. This means that UK students wanting to study abroad will be able to access this scheme to travel to countries across the world. According to the DofE, the Turing scheme will receive over £100 million in funding for up to 35,000 students to go on exchanges and placements overseas. However, from the 2022-2023 academic year, when it comes to EU countries, UK nationals will only be able to stay in an EU country (except from Ireland) for 90 out of every 180 days without a visa.
• Students and young people overwhelmingly voted Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum and have consistently voted for pro-EU and pro-second referendum parties in the two successive elections following the referendum.
• A progressive future is built on cooperation with our closest neighbours and allies.
• The events of recent years have represented a profound detachment from what we collectively regard as the United Kingdom’s righteous future within a free and prosperous European Union.
What would the world look like if we solved it?
• In the long-term, the Erasmus+ programme should be reinstated in its entirety, as it is the key to a cooperative and accessible educational experience.
• In the short term, there should be dedicated funding within the Turing scheme for inbound EU exchange programmes, to ensure the further enriching our higher education sector and increase the likelihood of creating international partners.
• Government should ensure the time taken for visa processes (for outbound and inbound exchange) is not prohibitive and that sufficient resource is invested to making the process accessible for students from all backgrounds.
• Government should provide additional support for the Higher Education sector to cover additional costs associated with studying abroad for students.
Ideas for Implementation
• NUS raise awareness around the deficits of the Turing scheme and highlight to students and the public that it does not equate fully to Erasmus+.