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Background

The Erasmus programme was launched in 1987 with 11 participating member states, including the UK. It has enabled students to study in another European country – or a ‘partner country’ elsewhere in the world – by funding their grants and waiving their tuition fees. In 2014, the programme became Erasmus+ and expanded to include apprentices, volunteers, staff and youth exchanges, and jobseekers.  

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union following the 2016 referendum did not necessarily mean that it had to end its involvement with the Erasmus+ programme.

The UK government, however, have said that the terms for continued participation offered by the EU were not in the interests of the UK taxpayer.

The Turing Scheme

On 24 December 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would no longer participate in the Erasmus+ programme, and it would be replaced by the Turing Scheme.

The scheme will be backed by £110 million. It will provide funding for around 35,000 participants in universities, colleges, and schools to go on study and work placements across the world from September 2021.

On 12 March 2021, the Turing Scheme opened for funding applications from organisations. Projects must focus on four main objectives:

  • Global Britain 
  • Levelling up
  • Developing key skills 
  • Value for UK taxpayers 

Organisational funding will help to cover the administrative costs of a placement, while grants will help to cover the costs incurred by participants. The support available is broadly in line with what was on offer under Erasmus+.

In order to widen access to groups underrepresented in international placements, there is also additional financial support available to participants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Response

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have expressed their disappointment at both the decision to leave the Erasmus+ programme and the nature of its replacement. On 21 March 2021, the Welsh Government announced a new international learning exchange programme to run alongside the Turing Scheme.

The Turing Scheme has been welcomed within the education sector, but there are concerns that the decision not to fund inward mobilities will lead to a decrease in the number of students coming to the UK and the loss of benefits that they bring.


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