Erasmus replacement, Turing unveiled

The Department for Education has unveiled its new educational exchange scheme, called Turing, which will replace the European Union’s Erasmus programme.
Source: Xbxg32000 (via. Wikimedia Commons).
By Morgan Perry | Political Editor

The Department for Education has unveiled its new educational exchange scheme, called Turing, which will replace the European Union’s Erasmus programme. 

With the UK having formally left the European Union (EU) last year, British students are no longer permitted to join Erasmus. 

The replacement scheme is named after British mathematician Alan Turing, who was an integral part of the UK’s code-breaking efforts during the Second World War. 

Turing will “enable up to 35,000 students throughout the UK to work or study across the globe”, said the universities minister, Michelle Donelan. 

The UK could have continued to participate in Erasmus post-Brexit but choose not to do so. 

How do the schemes compare?

The aim of the new scheme is to provide funding towards international placements and education exchanges. 

Unlike the Erasmus scheme, which is EU-focused but has partner institutions as far away as Mexico, the Turing programme aims to be a global replacement.

It’s not just university students who are eligible, either. Those who find themselves in vocational training, an apprenticeship, or those retraining at a college or school are eligible.

The UK Government will provide grants to help cover travel expenses and living costs. How much is paid will depend on where students are going, and for how long.

However, different to Erasmus, the government will not pay tuition fees for UK students that are studying elsewhere, nor will it cover the cost of students studying in the UK. Instead, the UK Government expects fees to be waived by the partner universities that choose to take part. 

There’s a large focus on providing opportunities for disadvantaged students, too. Turing aims to help disadvantaged students with expenses associated with the exchange, again dependent on where and for how long they are travelling for. 

So far, more than £100m has been allocated to support 35,000 students, but no funding has been guaranteed after the first year. 

End of the line for Welsh students

Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Education Minister, had previously expressed an intent for Welsh students to continue accessing the scheme, though this proposal was rejected by EU leaders. 

Scottish ministers had also expressed hope that Scottish students could continue to access the scheme. 

It was dismissed by Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, who argued that for Wales to participate in Erasmus, the “whole” of the UK would need to rejoin the Union. 

Mark Drakeford previously called the decision of the UK Government to withdraw from the scheme as “small-minded”. He added that the Welsh Government was continuing to discuss the possibility for bilateral educational exchanges with other countries, including Ireland and Germany.

Students in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, will be able to access both Erasmus and the new Turing scheme. This is because of an arrangement agreed between the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Irish Government. 

Doesn’t “live up to reality”

The response to the scheme has been somewhat lacklustre, not least because Erasmus helped to cover tuition fees (which are often heavily inflated for international students), and Turing only provides travel cost support to disadvantaged students. 

Given there’s no guarantee partner institutions will offer to cover the cost of tuition, it’s not yet clear how students from disadvantaged backgrounds will find themselves in a position to afford the scheme. 

Labour’s shadow education minister, Kate Green said the scheme “did not live up to reality”. 

“Boris Johnson broke his promise when he committed to ensuring the UK would remain part of Erasmus+ after Brexit, and he is subjecting the Turing scheme to future spending review decisions creating financial uncertainty for organisations and young people,” she added.

The National Union of Students, meanwhile, said the replacement scheme will “damage” the prospects of many students to study abroad. 

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Politics Morgan Perry

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