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Background

The Erasmus programme was launched in 1987 as an education exchange with 11 European members, including the UK. In 2014, the programme became Erasmus+ and expanded to include apprentices, jobseekers, volunteers, sport, and staff and youth exchanges. Today, Erasmus+ encompasses 33 full members (including the 27 EU member states) as well as more than 160 other countries around the world.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU following the 2016 referendum did not necessarily mean it had to end its involvement with the Erasmus+ programme. The Government, however, said the terms for continued participation offered by the EU were not in the interests of the UK taxpayer.

In December 2020, the then-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the UK would no longer participate in the Erasmus+ programme and would establish the Turing Scheme as a replacement.

How does the Turing Scheme work?

The Turing Scheme funds projects for participants from the UK and British Overseas Territories to undertake a study, work, or training placement in another country (known as an ‘outward mobility’).

Organisations, such as schools, colleges, and universities, apply for funding for Turing Scheme projects on behalf of their students. Projects must focus on four main objectives: global Britain; levelling up; developing key skills; and value for UK taxpayers.

Organisational funding helps cover costs directly linked to the administration and implementation of a project. Funding to cover living costs is also available for all projects. Participants on further education, vocational education and training, and schools projects receive funding towards their travel costs. Additional financial support is also available to participants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In the 2022/23 academic year, 316 projects (out of 519) were approved to receive grant funding totalling £106 million. 38,000 participants from schools, colleges, and universities, including nearly 20,000 from disadvantaged groups, will undertake study and work placements in over 150 international destinations. Full details are available on the 2022/23 funding results page of the Turing Scheme website.

Reactions to the scheme

Labour has said the lack of funding to cover tuition fees undermines the Government’s stated commitment to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while the Liberal Democrats have described the Turing Scheme as “woefully inadequate”.

Within the education and youth sectors, considerable disappointment was expressed at the Government’s decision to leave the Erasmus+ programme. The announcement of a replacement scheme in December 2020 was welcomed by some, but questions have been asked about whether Turing will be able to replicate the benefits of Erasmus+.

How does the Turing Scheme compare to the Erasmus+ programme?

The following table compares the Turing Scheme and Erasmus+ programme in some key areas. More detail is provided in the briefing.

Turing Scheme

Erasmus+ Programme

Focus

Global.

Europe (but placements outside Europe possible).

Scope

Education, training, and work placements outside the UK.

No funding for staff placements or pupils and students coming to the UK.

Inward and outward education, training, and work exchanges; staff development and exchanges; organisation improvement programmes; youth opportunities; and sport.

Budget

£110 million for 2022/23. Funding confirmed until 2025.

€26 billion for the 2021-27 cycle.

Participant numbers

28,997 higher education participants in 2021/22 and 23,233 in 2022/23.

Annual average of 18,700 UK higher education participants (staff and students) between 2014 and 2020.

Financial support

Travel grants for all higher education participants from disadvantaged backgrounds. Costs for visas, passports, and insurance also covered.

The Government expects tuition fees to be waived by host universities but has said this is a matter for individual institutions to agree.

Living cost grants are slightly more generous than under Turing, especially to countries outside Europe.

Additional grants for travel support are not available to most higher education participants.

Tuition fees are waived in participating countries.

Administration

January 2021 to April 2022: the British Council and Ecorys UK.

From April 2022: Capita and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

The UK National Agency (the British Council and Ecorys UK).

The devolved administrations

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have expressed disappointment at the decision to leave the Erasmus+ programme and the nature of its replacement.

On 2 February 2022, the Welsh Government launched Taith, an international learning exchange programme to run alongside the Turing Scheme. The Scottish Government has said it will also develop its own international exchange programme.

The Irish Government is working on an arrangement to continue access to Erasmus+ for Northern Ireland’s higher education students ahead of the 2023/24 academic year.


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