Image Credit: Trey Ratcliff
In response to an open letter, the Government has sought to reassure students that study abroad opportunities will not be affected if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on a ‘no deal’ basis.
The devolved Welsh and Scottish governments have written to the new Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to request that the UK continues to participate in the scheme irrespective of the outcome of the exit negotiations, which are currently at an impasse. The UK is due to leave the EU on the 31 October, in exactly eleven weeks, and the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the country will be leaving come what may.
The Erasmus+ scheme is an EU student exchange programme founded in 1987 which allows students to complete part of their degree or undertake a work placement abroad for up to 12 months at a participating institution. Over half of UK students who undertake study abroad do so via the scheme, with more than 16 500 using it in 2016/17 to experience living and learning in another country.
Crucially, an institution does not need to be based in an EU country to participate in the programme with Norway, Iceland, Turkey, and others taking part, as well as partner institutions across the world. Concerns have been raised, however, that UK students could be cut out after Halloween if an agreement isn’t in place. Without an agreement, the devolved administrations fear a loss of funding for the final year of the current cycle in 2020.
While it is possible that the UK could leave the EU on 31 October without an overarching deal, the Government has already negotiated a series of smaller deals covering areas like trade, aviation, and financial services. It is possible that the UK can make similar arrangements to ensure that study abroad opportunities are not lost. Indeed, the Government has said that it guarantees continued funding for 2020 and is exploring participation in the next cycle thereafter.
Nouse reported in March that the University of York has guaranteed funding for study abroad programmes for the academic years 2019/20 and 2020/21. Students have been advised that there will be no disruption to their exchanges, even in the event that the UK leaves the EU on a ‘no deal’ basis. The Academic Officer at the time, James Hare, said: “Study abroad was an invaluable part of my university experience, and this news guarantees the opportunity to study abroad to our students moving forward.”
The University has been especially active in its attempts to ensure that study abroad does continue for York students after exit day. In February, University leaders joined YUSU figures and representatives of other higher education institutions to sign their own open letter to the Government calling for study abroad funding to be protected. It has also signed its own bi-lateral exchange deal with the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, an example of how universities are making their own agreements separate to Government efforts.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said in response to the concerns about Erasmus+ and study abroad: “This government is working to negotiate a new deal but in the event the UK leaves the EU without an agreement in place we have already guaranteed cover for the payments for successful UK applicants for Erasmus+ and ESC [European Solidarity Corps] bids.
“Successful bids are those that are approved directly by the European commission or by the UK national agency and ratified by the European commission. The UK government has also repeatedly made clear that it values international exchange and collaboration in education, which is why we are exploring participation in the successor scheme and preparing for a range of potential outcomes.”
York students interested in study abroad should contact the Centre for Global Programmes, the contact details for which can be found on the University website. More information on Erasmus+ can be found on the programme’s dedicated website.