Scottish and Welsh ministers wanted to retain a place in the EU Erasmus+ student exchange scheme despite the UK’s exit from the bloc and held talks
Scottish and Welsh ministers wanted to retain a place in the EU Erasmus+ student exchange scheme despite the UK’s exit from the bloc and held talks with EU counterparts to retain membership. But yesterday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said only the UK could only participate in Erasmus “as a whole” and not constituent countries of Britain.
In the letter to German MEP Terry Reintke, she added: “As one constituent nation of the UK, association to Erasmus+ is not possible for Scotland, separately.
“The only possibility for the UK is to associate as a whole, or not at all.
“The EU offered the United Kingdom full association to the Erasmus+ programme in exchange for the standard financial contribution from third countries participating in Union programmes.
“Following a year of constructive negotiations with the UK Government, the decision was made in London not to pursue UK association to Erasmus+.”
Ms Reintke spearheaded a campaign along with 150 other MEPs who wrote to the European Commission, asking them to consider if Scotland and Wales could continue to take part in Erasmus despite the UK’s exit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson unveiled a replacement – named the Turing Scheme after the codebreaker Alan Turing – which will receive around £100million in the next academic year.
The £100million Turing scheme will support UK students on work and study placements abroad from September with the Tories arguing the EU exchange scheme would hit the UK with a £2billion bill.
An International Education Strategy – focused on supporting the education sector to recover from the impact of the pandemic by boosting global opportunities – will work alongside the Turing scheme.
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The revised strategy, led by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for International Trade, will reaffirm the Government’s commitment to recruit at least 600,000 international students to the UK by 2030.
Ministers in the devolved administrations say this “pales in comparison” to Erasmus, while Turing reduces support for colleges and schools.
A No. 10 source said: “Erasmus is too bureaucratic and expensive, it’s an Expensive European affair.
“It’s time for Scotland and Wales to back our bold Turing scheme which will contribute to a great post-Brexit Britain.”
A Department for Education spokesperson added: “The UK Government decided to not participate in the next Erasmus+ programme as it was not in the interest of UK taxpayers and our net contribution would have been around £2bn over the programme.
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“The new global Turing Scheme, backed by £110million, will provide thousands of students across all of the UK with the opportunity to study and work abroad, beyond EU countries, and will include additional support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We will continue to work with the sector and devolved administrations to deliver the programme, and we will explore how the Turing Scheme and Erasmus+ could complement each other in continuing student exchanges between the UK and EU member states”.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments meanwhile expressed anger branding the decision as a “blow.”
Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Higher Education Minister, added to this publication: “Losing Erasmus is a huge blow for the thousands of Scottish students, community groups and adult learners – from all demographic backgrounds – who can no longer live, study or work in Europe.
“The UK Government’s decision not to associate to Erasmus+ has created this problem, and we are grateful to Terry Reintke and other MEPs for their continued support.
“Despite Scotland not being a state and therefore not being able to remain a full participant on the same terms as the UK at the current time, we will work with the EU institutions to explore the options for as close a relationship as possible being maintained.”
A Welsh Government spokesman, added: “We continue to explore all options to ensure highly-valued partnerships with Europe, that have been damaged by the UK Government’s decision not to participate in Erasmus, are able to continue.”
Speaking in the Welsh Senedd earlier this month, First Minister Mark Drakeford accused the UK Government of having a “small-minded approach” in scrapping the scheme.