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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 UK Government, however, said the terms for continued participation offered by the EU were not in the interests of the 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 participants. Projects must focus on four main objectives:

  • global Britain
  • levelling up
  • developing key skills
  • value for UK taxpayers.

Organisational funding helps cover costs directly linked to the administration and implementation of a project. Funding towards 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.

For the 2023/24 academic year, 619 applications were received and 474 projects approved. Just under £105 million of funding was awarded for 40,000 participants to undertake placements in more than 160 destinations. Nearly two-thirds of placements are for school children, young people, and students from disadvantaged and historically underrepresented backgrounds.

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+, particularly given the scheme’s reduced scope and lack of funding for students coming to the UK.

There are also ongoing concerns about Turing’s single-year funding model, which means the amounts universities receive through the scheme fluctuate year to year, leading to financial uncertainty for institutions and students. Universities have called for more clarity, asking for budget allocations to be made at least a year in advance, and funding distributed several months before the academic year commences.

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



Europe (but placements outside Europe possible).


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.


£110 million for 2023/24. Funding confirmed until 2025.

€26 billion for the 2021-27 cycle.

Participant numbers

Annual average of 25,100 higher education participants (students only) between 2021 and 2024.

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 more generous than Turing for placements over eight weeks, 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.


The British Council and Ecorys UK between January 2021 to April 2022. From April 2022, Capita and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Single-year funding model with applications made in February and funding announced in July/August ahead of the academic year.

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

Funding available for 24 and 36-month project cycles.

The devolved administrations

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

In February 2022, the Welsh Government launched Taith, an international learning exchange programme that is intended to “fill the gaps Turing leaves”, by providing long-term funding, two-way exchanges, and youth work opportunities.

The Scottish Government has said it will also develop its own international exchange programme, but it has faced criticism for perceived delays.

The Irish Government is working on an arrangement to continue access to Erasmus+ for Northern Ireland’s higher education students for the 2023/24 academic year. In July 2023, it announced €2 million in funding to higher education institutions in Northern Ireland to support student placements across Europe.

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