Scotland’s leading pro-EU organisation, the European Movement in Scotland, has urged the Scottish Government to follow the Wales Government and establish its own version of the Erasmus education exchange programme.
With Brexit, the UK government has withdrawn from the EU’s Erasmus scheme, which offered student exchanges as well as school links and work experience.
Its replacement, the Turing Scheme, includes a fraction of the benefits provided to students under Erasmus+. Free tuition and travel expenses have been scrapped, except for the most disadvantaged students and the cost-of-living allowance has been slashed by a fifth. In addition the Turing Scheme does not extend to apprentices and trainees.
The Turing scheme does not extend to staff exchanges. Funding will also not be reciprocal, meaning that international partner institutions will not be supported for any exchanges coming to the UK.
Around 2000 Scottish students and staff used Erasmus+ each year and now many will be denied the chance to study and travel in 27 other EU countries as the new scheme puts financial barriers in front of them.
In contrast, the Welsh Government said its scheme would “support, as far as possible, the entire range of activities that have been available to learners in Wales” under Erasmus+.
The new programme will fill in many of the gaps Turing leaves, including, crucially, the commitment to long-term funding, the retention of the principle of two-way exchanges and the inclusion of youth work.
Scotland attracts proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe – and sends more in the other direction – than any other country in the UK. Through associated youth work projects, the scheme is estimated to deliver at least £7 in value for every £1 it costs in public cash, and its value to the economy has been estimated to be worth nearly £34 million annually since 2014.
The Scottish Government had lobbied the EU for continued membership but its hopes were quashed last month by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who told MEPs that, as a “constituent nation” of the UK, Scotland could not rejoin. Students studying at institutions in Northern Ireland can take part in Erasmus thanks to an arrangement with the Irish government.
Mark Lazarowicz, Chair of the European Movement in Scotland commented:
“The loss of Erasmus is an act of cultural vandalism and we would urge the Scottish Government to follow Wales and fill the immense gaps presented by the Turing scheme.
“Erasmus brings different countries and nationalities together and generates such massive cultural and educational benefits, its loss is a huge blow. It allowed many thousands of young people, no matter their background, to continue to improve their futures, their access to global opportunities, and their development as citizens of a connected world.
“Over 2000 Scottish students, staff and learners used the scheme each year. Indeed, Scotland attracts proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe – and sends more in the other direction – than any other country in the UK.
“A unilateral replacement, such as the proposed Turing scheme, will never be able to replicate the wealth of opportunities for all young people, or raise the same reciprocal benefits of the Erasmus Programme.”