Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP proposed this as a topic for debate to the Backbench Business Committee on Tuesday 15th May. In his representations, he cited the fact that currently negotiations are ongoing for the next Erasmus funding period which will begin after 2020, and he highlighted a concern that the Government has not made its intentions clear with regard to the UK’s continued participation in this scheme into the new Erasmus cycle starting in 2021. Mr Russell-Moyle indicated that the focus of this debate would be the university part of the Erasmus programme, and expressed a desire to table a substantive motion for the Government to inform Members of its attitude and intention towards the UK’s participation in the scheme.

The following briefing includes background information about the Erasmus programme, as well recent relevant press and parliamentary material which Members may find useful when preparing for this debate.

Commons Library briefings and further information

For a more detailed analysis, the Commons Library has just published a briefing paper on the Erasmus programme, which outlines the history, the objectives, the structure, and the future of the scheme, as well as UK participation before and after Brexit.

Further information on the programme is available on the UK Erasmus+ website.

Erasmus+ and UK participation

The Erasmus Programme, now known officially as ‘Erasmus+’, began its current incarnation in 2014. The Erasmus+ scheme provides funding for education, training and sport, with a particular focus on youth work, but it also provides funding for activities aimed at all ages. The EU sees these programmes as a means of addressing socio-economic issues that Europe may face like unemployment and social cohesion. In 2014, the scheme expanded to include apprentices, volunteers, staff and youth exchanges and jobseekers. The number of countries involved has tripled over the years. Today, Erasmus has 33 full members, including several non-EU nations such as Norway and Iceland. It also has more than 160 partner countries.

Erasmus+ continues a range of European Union (EU) funding streams that have existed since 2007, such as the Socrates Programme and the Lifelong Learning Programme. Erasmus was launched in 1987 with 11 members, including the UK. Since then, the scheme has enabled more than four million students to study in another European country by funding their grants and waiving their tuition fees.

10,944 students in higher education in the UK participated in the 2016 ‘call’ (application period) for study placements abroad through the Erasmus+ scheme.

In 2015-16, the most popular host countries for UK higher education students were France (2,388), Spain (2,131), Germany (1,312), Netherlands (701), and Italy (687). The total value of all Erasmus+ projects funded in the UK has increased in each year from €112million in the 2014 ‘call’ to €143million in 2017. The UK was the 7th highest participating country in the programme in 2015. 31,067 students came to the UK (all study and work placements).

In the UK the Department for Education oversees Erasmus+ and the programme is managed by the UK National Agency which is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. The UK Government has promised to underwrite funding that was due to continue after Brexit and UK citizens are currently encouraged to apply for funding under Erasmus+.

The Erasmus+ programme is run on seven yearly cycles and the current cycle will end in 2020. The UK could potentially continue to be an active member of Erasmus+ post 2020 as various degrees of involvement in the programme are available for countries both inside and outside the EU.

On 30 May 2018 the EU Commission announced that it is proposing to double funding for the Erasmus programme and for the next cycle starting in 2021 any country in the world will be able to participate if they meet set requirements. It is unclear at present what the UK’s participation in Erasmus+ will be after Brexit but the EU Commission’s announcement opens up the possibility of the UK’s continued involvement in the programme.

Recent parliamentary material

Written Parliamentary Questions

Asked by: Williams, Hywel | Party: Plaid Cymru

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he has made contingency plans for a UK programme of overseas study opportunities for university students in the event that the UK is not able to remain part of the EU’s Erasmus programme; and if he will make a statement.

Answering member: Mr Sam Gyimah | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Education

The Joint Report sets out that the UK and the EU fully intend for the eligibility of UK participants’ in Erasmus+ to remain unchanged for the duration of the programme. This includes eligibility to participate in Erasmus+ projects and to receive Erasmus+ funding for the lifetime of projects. The government encourages eligible organisations to continue to bid for Erasmus+ funding and participate in Erasmus+ projects.

The government’s underwrite guarantee of Erasmus+ funding remains in place in the event that commitments enshrined in the Joint Report are not met. This guarantees funding for UK participants in ongoing projects at the point of the UK leaving the EU, as well as for participants that are only informed of their success or sign a grant agreement after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

19 Jun 2018 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 152062

Date tabled: 11 Jun 2018 | Date for answer: 13 Jun 2018 | Date answered: 19 Jun 2018

Asked by: Marsden, Gordon | Party: Labour Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, pursuant to the Answer to of 4 June 2018 to Question 146757, whether the White Paper will specify the Government’s policy on and intention to participate in the EU’s Horizon and Erasmus+ programmes during the next funding period beyond which it has already made commitments.

Answering member: Mr Robin Walker | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Exiting the European Union

The White Paper will cover all aspects of our future relationship with the European Union, building on the ambitious vision set out by the Prime Minister in her speeches in Florence, Munich and Mansion House.

The Prime Minister has been clear that we will continue to take part in specific policies and programmes which are to the UK and the EU’s joint advantage, such as those that promote science, education and culture.

11 Jun 2018 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 149931

Date tabled: 05 Jun 2018 | Date for answer: 11 Jun 2018 | Date answered: 11 Jun 2018

Asked by: Smith, Cat | Party: Labour Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what discussions representatives of his Department have had with representatives of the Department for Exiting the European Union on protecting the UK’s involvement in the European Union’s Erasmus training and study programme after 2020 as part of the Government’s negotiations on the UK leaving the EU.

Answering member: Tracey Crouch | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Department for Education (DfE) is the national authority for the whole Erasmus+ programme while the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for policy on the specific youth and sport opportunities offered under Erasmus+.

DCMS Ministers and its officials are working closely with their colleagues across Government, including DfE and the Department for Exiting the EU, on the UK’s Exit from the EU.

No decisions on UK participation in the future post 2020 Erasmus+ programme have yet been taken, as the scope of the programme has not yet been agreed. UK participation in the successor programmes will form part of the negotiations about our future relationship with the EU.

23 Apr 2018 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 135836

Date tabled: 13 Apr 2018 | Date for answer: 17 Apr 2018 | Date answered: 23 Apr 2018

Asked by: Russell-Moyle, Lloyd | Party: Labour Party · Cooperative Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, how many youth projects are supported by Erasmus Plus (Youth), and how many British young people have been supported by those projects since the start of that programme.

Answering member: Tracey Crouch | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Details of the number of youth projects can be found at https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/statistics-0 under ‘Projects funded’ – ‘Data Tables’, Table 1.

There are no records of the nationality of participants, but details of the number of participants funded in the UK can be found at https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/statistics-0 under ‘Project Mobilities and Outputs’ – ‘Data Tables’, Table 1.

Copies of the information have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

15 Jan 2018 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 121653

Date tabled: 09 Jan 2018 | Date for answer: 15 Jan 2018 | Date answered: 15 Jan 2018


Oral Parliamentary Questions

Asked by: Lord Fox (LD) | Party: Liberal Democrats

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. The numbers are to the Government’s credit: we are moving towards our research and development investment being close to where it should be. However, it has not necessarily answered my Question. In the event of the United Kingdom departing from the European Union, as the Minister alluded to, the cost of associating with a number of schemes with which, in his words, we wish to associate ourselves, will be very high. If we wish to participate—pay to play—in Horizon 2020 Future, if we wish to participate in the European defence fund, if we wish our students to participate in the Erasmus exchange programme, they alone will cost many billions of pounds. Will he undertake that there will be money additional to that number for those things to continue? If not, the United Kingdom’s science and technology industry and community will lose out. Will he make that commitment?

Answered by: Lord Henley | Party: Conservative Party

My Lords, I am not going to make any commitment in advance of the negotiations. As the noble Lord is aware, it is important that we get a good deal here, and I think it is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and the EU. The noble Lord will be aware of what Pascal Lamy said only a year ago:

“Whatever Brexit modalities are agreed between the UK and the EU by 2019, full and continued engagement with the UK within the post-2020 EU R&I programme remains an obvious win-win for the UK and the EU”.

The UK has one of the strongest science bases of all European countries. We want to continue negotiating on that basis, and we think that the EU does as well.

05 Jun 2018 | Oral questions – 1st Supplementary | Answered | House of Lords | House of Lords chamber | 791 c1234

Date answered: 05 Jun 2018

Asked by: Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab) | Party: Labour Party

Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab):

Erasmus+ is the EU programme that, for 30 years, has given 600,000 people from the UK—apprentices, students, businesses and workers—the chance to train, study or volunteer abroad. The Government have said that Erasmus+ is safe until 2020 but have made no commitments to keep it thereafter. Erasmus+ is being forgotten about. Keeping all those benefits, especially for younger people, many in Blackpool, is one thing that unites both leave and remain. Will the Prime Minister make sure that Erasmus+ is now a top-line item for her Ministers and give us this pledge today?

Answered by: The Prime Minister | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Prime Minister

We have not forgotten about Erasmus, or indeed a number of other programmes that give opportunities for universities and students here in the United Kingdom. We have said there are certain programmes that we wish to remain part of when we leave the European Union, and Erasmus is one of those we have cited that we may wish to remain part of, but of course we are in a negotiation with the European Union and we will be dealing with these matters in that negotiation.

16 May 2018 | Prime Minister’s questions – 1st Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 641 c277

Date answered: 16 May 2018

Asked by: Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab) | Party: Labour Party

In my constituency, there are three universities and tens of thousands of students. We could remain a member of Erasmus+ when we leave the EU. Will the Minister confirm that we will do so?

Answered by: Mr Robin Walker | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Exiting the European Union

The Prime Minister has set out that she believes there are great opportunities to continue to co-operate together on education and culture. We will of course need to look at what the next stage of the Erasmus+ scheme covers, but we see enormous benefits from it for students from the UK, so it is an area in which we are likely to seek further collaboration.

03 May 2018 | Topical questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 640 c458

Date answered: 03 May 2018

Asked by: Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) | Party: Scottish National Party

Scotland has benefited from €64.8 million of funding for 658 projects since 2014. Coming out of Erasmus+ will mean not only a loss of money, but a loss of opportunity for young people in Scotland. How does the Minister intend to replace that?

Answered by: Mr Walker | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Exiting the European Union

In her Mansion House speech, the Prime Minister said:

“There are many…areas where the UK and EU economies are closely linked—including…education and culture.”

It is clear that we have an ambition to discuss potential future participation in those areas; and, of course, the UK has a wide range of international programmes, which we can consider how to extend in the years to come.

15 Mar 2018 | Oral questions – Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 637 c983

Date answered: 15 Mar 2018

Asked by: Andrew Lewer | Party: Conservative Party

Is the Department liaising with the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education and its Chair, Petra Kammerevert, and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture to discuss how Erasmus+ applications that are submitted before the Brexit date will be implemented?

Answered by: Mr Walker | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Exiting the European Union

I recognise my hon. Friend’s considerable expertise when it comes to the European Parliament. Ministers from our Department regularly engage with Members of the European Parliament. We have also met members of the Committee on Culture and Education to discuss a range of EU exit issues, and we will continue to seek opportunities to meet them. The Department for Education is the lead Department for Erasmus+ policy, and its officials are in regular touch with the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture.

15 Mar 2018 | Oral questions – 1st Supplementary | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 637 c983

Date answered: 15 Mar 2018

Asked by: Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con) | Party: Conservative Party

What discussions he has had in negotiations on the UK leaving the EU on continuing UK participation in the Erasmus + programme.

Answered by: The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr Robin Walker) | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Exiting the European Union

We have committed ourselves to continued UK participation in the Erasmus+

programme until 2020, and we welcome the opportunity to give clarity to young people as well as the youth and education sectors. While no decisions have yet been made about the post-2020 participation, since the scope of that programme has not been agreed, the Prime Minister said in her recent speech that the Government would seek an ongoing relationship in respect of

“educational and cultural programmes, to promote our shared values and enhance our intellectual strength in the world”.

15 Mar 2018 | Oral questions – Lead | Answered | House of Commons | House of Commons chamber | 904382 | 637 cc982-3

Date tabled: 12 Mar 2018 | Date for answer: 15 Mar 2018 | Date answered: 15 Mar 2018

Early Day Motions

That this House welcomes statements from the Government that there will be continued involvement in the Erasmus+ programme up to 2020; notes that 600,000 people from the UK have gone abroad to study, train or volunteer in the last 30 years due to this program and its predecessors; further notes the valuable contribution Erasmus+ has played in building partnerships with the UK’s European neighbours; and calls on the Government to work to ensure the UK’s access and participation to all successor European programs for education and training, universities, schools and technical education, youth and sports respectively.

01 Feb 2018 | Early day motions | Open | House of Commons | 891 (session 2017-19)

Primary sponsor: Russell-Moyle, Lloyd | Party: Labour Party · Cooperative Party

Other sponsors: Hopkins, Kelvin · Farron, Tim · Day, Martyn · Lake, Ben · Martin, Sandy

Number of signatures: 22

Parliamentary debates


Recent press material

Erasmus+ exchange programme set to open to all countries in 2021

Times Higher Education, 31 May 2018

A report on proposals by the European Commission for countries outside the EU and EEA to participate fully in the Erasmus+ programme in the period 2021-27.


Brexit: UK may get poorer access than Israel to EU science scheme

The Guardian, 30 May 2018


‘Losing Erasmus+ will increase inequality’

Times Education Supplement, 14 March 2018

A comment piece written by Vonnie Sandlan from Colleges Scotland.

MSPs’ call to go it alone to keep Erasmus in Scotland after Brexit

The National, 14 March 2018

A report on recommendations from the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee for the Scottish Government to establish a national agency to ensure Scotland’s participation in the Erasmus+ programme if the UK Government does not do so after 2020.

Brexit student exchange needs rethink says top uni head

BBC News, 15 February 2018

A report on comments from the Vice Chancellor of Cardiff University that the UK should consider its own international student exchange programmes to replace the Erasmus+ programme after Brexit.

Brexit: UK in Erasmus student scheme until at least 2020

BBC News, 14 December 2017


Erasmus loss post-Brexit ‘would be massive’ in Wales

BBC News, 23 November 2017

A report of comments made by one of the founders of the Erasmus scheme, Dr Hywel Ceri Jones.


Study abroad is invaluable – students deserve clarity on Erasmus

The Guardian, 27 November 2017

A comment piece by Vivienne Stern, the Director of Universities UK International.

Brexit casts shadow over Erasmus scheme

The Times, 3 September 2017


UK students ‘may be barred from Erasmus after Brexit’

Times Higher Education, 1 August 2017

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