The £110-million Turing student exchange scheme is to be run by outsourcing firm Capita, according to reports.
Turing’s predecessors, the Erasmus and Erasmus+ schemes, have been run by the British Council since 2007.
In March, when Turing scheme applications opened, the government said the British Council and economics research consultancy Ecorys UK would jointly run the programme.
However, in July the government put the contract out to tender “inviting the market to participate in engagement”.
The Turing scheme is still finding its feet, and the priority must be delivering quality for students, not a race to the bottom – Jo Grady, UCU
The British Council told the Guardian it would continue running the Turing scheme until handing over to Capita at the end of March 2022 and that it was “proud to have launched the Turing scheme in February 2021 and supported £98.5m of grant funding in the inaugural year of the Turing scheme, including 41,024 participants, of which 48% are identified as coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The British Council and Ecorys will work closely with Capita to ensure a smooth transition. All current and planned mobility activities will go ahead uninterrupted, and there will be no gap in service.”
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said outsourcing Turing to Capita “who have a shocking record of failure on a range of other government contracts, is a terrible decision from the Department for Education which will further diminish the quality of student exchange programmes.
“The British Council has important expertise in the running of student exchanges, and cutting them out of the process in favour of a profit-making private company is shameful. The Turing scheme is still finding its feet, and the priority must be delivering quality for students, not a race to the bottom. This continued, ideological outsourcing drive from the Tories is bad for students and bad for ordinary people.”
Shadow higher education minister Matt Western joined other higher education figures on Twitter to express dismay at the decision.
Only this Government would hand the Turing contract to Capita.
Their handling of the Army recruitment contract has been “disastrous” (not my words).
Will be watching.
— Matt Western MP 💙 (@MattWestern_) December 8, 2021
Given the hollow “Global Britain” idea behind the Turing scheme, this isn’t surprising. But it seems outright dangerous to send students to distant and less developed countries, with their welfare in the hands of a company that can’t run an NHS stationery cupboard. https://t.co/a2BtL2ohuE
— Lucy Whelan (@LucyWhelan) December 8, 2021
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