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Exit Erasmus

How will studying abroad work in a post-Erasmus UK?

On 26 December 2020, just one day after Christmas, the UK government withdrew from Erasmus, the European Union scheme for student and staff mobility, citing the cost. In its place, it has introduced its own £100 million per annum Turing scheme, which aims to send 35,000 students a year abroad for work or study.

No staff are to be included in the scheme, a particular blow to UK EFL teacher-training providers which have long benefited from Erasmus funding. This leaves two remaining English-speaking EU members, the Republic of Ireland and Malta, which are likely to see their market share soar (see below).

Anger at the UK government’s decision has been particularly fierce in the Celtic nations of Great Britain. Attempts by the governments of Scotland and Wales to use their power over their own education systems to remain in Erasmus were vetoed by the European Commission in February on the grounds that only nation states can join.

Students in Northern Ireland though, will be able to access Erasmus exchanges, with the government of the neighbouring Irish Republic promising to fund their Erasmus grants.

British universities are likely to be take the worst hit. Although there is funding for UK students to study abroad, Turing does not provide any funding for students coming to Britain to study on exchange.

With UK university fees the fifth highest in the world, this could present problems, as a blog from Higher Education think tank Wonkhe explains: “It’s uncontroversial to say that the success of any exchange programme is based on the mutual willingness of exchange. The Government has conspicuously committed to fund only ‘outward’ mobilities, a somewhat puzzling decision given that reciprocity is a fundamental principle for any successful international exchange programme.”

Before the new scheme was up and running, UK universities were reported to already be organising exchanges for the 2021-2022 academic year using unspent Erasmus funds, held over during the pandemic. The University of Alicante in Spain has already signed exchange agreements with 40 UK universities, according to University World News.

Unspent Erasmus funds are also helping a handful of UK language schools to train EU teachers this summer.

However, most training specialists are either running full-cost courses aimed mostly at teachers from outside the EU or are moving their operations abroad. NILE in Norwich has twinned the Galway Language Centre in Ireland and ESE on Malta to deliver teacher- training courses, while Pilgrims, part of the OISE group, is running its courses from the University of Limerick.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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