Turing scheme applications to open in March

The first details of the government’s replacement for the Erasmus scheme were published today

The government has today released preliminary details of the Turing scheme – the UK replacement for the Erasmus+ programme.

The £110-million Turing scheme, which is “global in outlook”, will support 35,000 outbound UK exchange students, ministers promise. Applications will open in March.

Schools, colleges and universities in the UK can access funding by submitting an application, with decisions on successful bids expected in July. The Turing scheme will initially run for one year, with students expected to take up places abroad from September 2021.

The information published today includes the eligibility criteria for higher education institutions and grant rates available.

Funding is open to students registered at universities in the UK and British Overseas Territories and enrolled on full- or part-time degree-level or tertiary-level qualifications. Students do not need to be UK nationals to be eligible.

The funding will cover study and work placements lasting between four weeks to 12 months: aside from non-UK HE providers, all overseas public and private organisations, research institutes, foundations and trade unions are eligible partners.

The DfE has yet to publish the details of the assessment criteria, but the Turing scheme website notes that applications will be assessed “according to how well they demonstrate that the project will achieve the core objectives of the scheme”.

The Turing scheme website explains that funding should enable students to “develop new skills, gain vital international experience and boost their employability”. Bids should be of “value for UK taxpayers”, the website adds, and “optimise social value in terms of potential costs, benefits and risks”.

University Business asked the DfE who would make funding decisions, how bids would be evaluated, and if subjects or employment fields would be weighted in the criteria. A spokesperson declined to comment – but said further information would be published “in due course”.

We are committed to making sure our students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can benefit from studying and working abroad. Working with the British Council, we will open up the globe to our young people
– Michelle Donelan, universities minister 

The “administrative burden” of the application process would be “kept as low as possible”, the DfE added.

UK organisations with successful applications will receive funding towards placements and exchanges, including grants to help cover travel and living cost, and funding to support universities administer their projects. “The rates provided will be broadly in line with what has been on offer under Erasmus+,” the DfE stated.

Universities will gain £315 per Turing participant for the first 100 participants and £180 per student above that number.

Grants to cover living costs will vary depending on the sector, length of placement and destination country. Students on placements longer than eight weeks in “high cost” countries will attract £380 per month, for example, with students from disadvantaged backgrounds receiving 30% bigger grants. Disadvantaged students will receive funding to cover the cost of visas, passports, and health insurance. For those with SEND, the scheme will fund up to 100% of costs “directly related to their additional needs”. Travel grants will cover at least 70% of costs.

Countries included in the scheme will also be released “in due course”.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: “In these unprecedented times, having a proactive global education agenda is more important than ever so we can build back better from the pandemic. Our world-class education is a vital part of our economy and society, and we want to support universities, schools, colleges and all aspects of the education sector to thrive across the globe.

“We are committed to making sure our students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can benefit from studying and working abroad. Working with the British Council, we will open up the globe to our young people, and I look forward to seeing the exciting and enriching opportunities the Turing scheme will bring.

Updated International Education Strategy

Alongside the DfE’s Turing scheme, the Department for International Trade (DIT) has “reaffirmed” its commitment to attract 600,000 international students to the UK by 2030, outlined in the revised International Education Strategy. The updated strategy outlines plans for a new international teaching qualification (iQTS) “so teachers around the globe can train to world-leading domestic standards” and a new “streamlined” visa application process. Universities can now apply for support from the UK Export Finance’s General Export Facility – which can “help cover the everyday costs linked to exporting”.

International education champion, Sir Steve Smith, said the strategy “outlines concrete measures to support the entire education sector across all parts of the UK to achieve the goals of at least 600,000 international students coming to the UK, and educational exports rising to £35bn by 2030″.

“Changes to the visa arrangements, the new iQTS, a focus on a set of priority markets and the launch of the Turing mobility scheme will all support making the UK an even more successful and attractive educational powerhouse,” he added.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the the government’s international education strategy views international students “as cash cows” to be “exploited for fee income”. She added that the Turing scheme funding was “around £83m less than the UK was receiving from the Erasmus scheme”. Dr Grady also said Turing made no attempt to replicate the aspects of Erasmus that “supported staff mobility and knowledge exchange”.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said recent government had “delivered real benefits already, including the introduction of the graduate route, and improvements to the visa system”.

“Despite a very difficult year, interest in UK study has grown as a result. The strategy is not only about attracting students to the UK. We particularly welcome the launch of the Turing scheme, which will create new opportunities for students in UK universities to gain valuable international experience. We know these opportunities enable graduates to develop the skills employers need, and that the benefits are most pronounced for those from less advantaged backgrounds.”

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