What will be the future of the Erasmus scheme after Brexit?

Employment and Social Affairs

What does the future hold for the Erasmus scheme after Brexit? Numerous UK universities have voiced concern over its future.

After the UK voted to leave the EU, students in the UK risk being excluded from the Erasmus programme, the most famous education exchange scheme that benefited 15,000 every year across Europe.

Numerous UK universities, which are already facing difficulties due to cuts on funding for science and research grants, have voiced concern over the future of the Erasmus scheme after Brexit.

As reported by a statement on the UK National agency website, a flood of questions about the continuation of the programme arrived to the British national office of the European Programme in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. However, no answers can be provided so far about what the future holds.

We face a sad moment of uncertainty, after 30 years of this enrichment of so many lives,” Ruth Sinclair-Jones, Erasmus’ UK director told to The Guardian, while saying that students will “have to be patient as definitive answers… may take time.”

Read NEU’s selection of articles on Brexit  for more information on its consequences.

Brexit will be a harsh blow to British universities

Thanks to the European student exchange programme, not only students at British universities are able to spend a period abroad in Europe for at maximum a year, but also, first and foremost, thousands of students from the rest of the continent can do the same in the UK.

At the moment, 27,401 students are having an exchange period at university in the UK under the European scheme, which pay their fees. An EU exclusion from the scheme could hence be a harsh blow to British universities.

The number of EU students coming to study in Great Britain would decline significantly after Brexit, since young Europeans would be recruited as international students, meaning their fees would increase substantially.

According to Universities UK group, EU students in the UK were up to 5.5 %, generating £3.7 billion for the UK economy and generating 34,000 jobs in local communities.

Beyond fees, high-calibre academics and students risk also being deterred to join British universities because of a change in the visa arrangements for other European countries.

UK education, culture and research will be more isolated than ever

As a result of Brexit, UK education, culture and research sectors will be isolated, academics warned. Leaving the EU will mean leaving home students less exposed to other cultures as well as leaving academics without research funding granted by the European Union, struggling to cooperate on research projects.

“Erasmus has been extremely successful in creating academic, scientific and cultural exchanges across Europe,” the International Officer for the National Union of Students, Mostafa Rajaai, told to The Independent.

For this reason, the programme enriches the experiences of both students and academics, not only the thousands of those who participate yearly in the scheme. As a result of Erasmus, all of them can enjoy a much more diverse learning and teaching environment.

“Maintaining Erasmus the way it currently functions with a possibility of growth for the program should be part of the Brexit negotiations to ensure such an important element of Higher Education in the UK is not erased altogether,” added Mr Rajaai.

Two ways ahead: Norway or Switzerland?

Although it is not a member of the EU, Norway takes part in the programme. However, it does not oppose the free movement of people. Therefore, it is uncertain whether the UK will accept this condition, considering that immigration was a key issue in the vote to leave the EU.

As a consequence of its vote to restrict free movement, Switzerland has been excluded from the Erasmus scheme.

Despite the country has started its own, it is very expensive. This means that only well-off students in Switzerland can study in other European countries, the Universities UK group told the Guardian.

“The great thing about Erasmus is that it made the experience and opportunity available to every student, whatever their family means,” it said.

Tommaso Ripani

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