Erasmus: ‘unacceptable’ to force Wales and Scotland to leave, ministers say

Ministers from Scotland and Wales have vowed to continue Erasmus+ membership despite Brexit

The UK government’s Turing scheme is an “inadequate” replacement for the Erasmus+ scheme, said ministers from Wales and Scotland as they vowed their nations would remain inside the EU program.

In a joint statement, Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams and Scottish higher education minister Richard Lochhead criticised the “unacceptable” imposition of the Turing scheme on the devolved nations. Under the 1998 devolvement agreements, Holyrood and Cardiff are responsible for formulating national education policy for Scotland and Wales respectively. Foreign policy is, however, a power reserved for the UK government in Westminster.

Williams and Lochhead said the one-year £105 million Turing scheme budget “pales in comparison” next to the 31-member, €26.2 billion Eramsus+ scheme, which was renewed for another seven years until 2027. The ministers said they would “now explore” how Scotland and Wales can continue to participate in Erasmus+ – declaring that ministers in London should release Turing scheme funding for them to pay to re-join the EU scheme.

They argued that handing “replacement funding for Erasmus+” over to the Senedd and Scottish parliament would allow devolved nations “to exercise our right to deliver educational services within our respective nations”.

“Turing will offer no funding to the international partners that are needed to allow mobilities to take place unlike Erasmus+, where both parties are awarded funding to facilitate the exchange of learners from one country to another. Turing will also fail to support any of the strategic partnerships currently supported by Erasmus+, which help to build relationships with partners in Europe,” the ministers said.

The Turing scheme does not establish reciprocity with any nation – and UK funds are reserved for outward UK student mobility. Liberal Democrat peer Susan Garden decried this resolution in early January.

It wasn’t true under Erasmus that we were funding inbound and outbound mobility: each country put money into a pot
Vivienne Stern, Universities UK International

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said the criticism was unfounded. “It wasn’t true under Erasmus that we were funding inbound and outbound mobility: each country put money into a pot. We were not paying for French mobility: the French were paying for French mobility. It will be more difficult, but I just think it’s wrong to argue the UK should now fund exchanges both ways.”

Speaking to University Business, Stern urged universities not to despair: “The way that we will persuade Treasury to make multi-year spending commitments is by seizing on the scheme.” Erasmus can afford flexibility to universities and students by offering seven-year spending commitments – to persuade the Treasury of something similar universities must pinch their noses and “make the best of it”.

Lochhead said Scotland had proportionally welcomed more Erasmus students from the rest of Europe and a higher uptake of Erasmus places from Scottish HE students than the rest of the UK. Williams said Welsh schools “led the UK in winning Erasmus+ funding” for classroom projects on inclusivity, green energy and artificial intelligence. Both ministers said the EU scheme had boosted “cultural awareness, second-language learning ability, and employability” across the whole of the UK.

Read more: The Turing scheme: a licence to do things better?

Image via Flickr.

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