In December 2020 the UK announced that it would be withdrawing from the Erasmus+ programme, the study exchange scheme comprising hundreds of European universities, as part of its exit from the EU. This move caused concern amongst UK universities and students, who have benefited from membership of the scheme since 1987. Instead, the UK Government announced it would be funding a new programme, known as the Turing Scheme, which it claims will offer greater opportunities to British students and offer greater value for money to taxpayers. But can these claims be believed? And what will the real consequences be for British students wanting to do a year abroad, and those intending to come to the UK to study? This is everything we know so far on what the UK’s new Turing Scheme means for students.
Despite statements made by Boris Johnson in January 2020 that the UK would not be withdrawing from the Erasmus+ programme, at the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations in December of the same year the Government ultimately decided that remaining in the scheme would prove too expensive, reportedly due to a request by the EU to contribute several years of funding up-front. Therefore, as of 2021 the UK (NI excluded), will no longer participate in the Erasmus+ programme. Instead, it has promised to deliver over £100m in annual funding for the replacement Turing scheme, which will be allocated to up to 35,000 students a year (from the UK Gov website). However, it is not yet known how this funding will be divided between British students travelling abroad and international students spending a year in the UK. So far, it has only been confirmed that universities must submit an application for funding, following which a decision will be made on how to allocate it.
Therefore, UK students need not worry about missing out on essential funding that their predecessors in earlier years received, as there will be some form of funding in place. However, it remains to be seen how accessible the programme will be. Pulling out of a long-established programme with hundreds of institutions across dozens of countries to forge a separate path with an untested new model will undoubtedly cause many problems, and the Department for Education will need to tackle these effectively to avoid letting down students with further uncertainty.
Finally, it remains to be seen whether the UK Government can achieve its goal of reaching out to disadvantaged students amongst whom uptake of the Erasmus+ programme was lower than among wealthier students.
We expect further information on the Turing scheme to be revealed in the coming months, which will provide more clarity on what the UK’s new Turing Scheme means for students.