Even as London and Brussels continue to work together to secure a post-Brexit deal in the final days of the transition period, multiple reports have said that starting 2021, British students could be left out of the EU’s flagship Erasmus+ programme, as negotiations have remained inconclusive about the UK’s participation in the study abroad scheme.
News of the country’s supposed departure from the programme, which currently benefits around 17,000 British students and contributes over £243 million every year to the national economy, did not sit well with furious social media users in Britain, who trended the hashtag #Erasmus on Twitter.
What is the Erasmus programme?
Started in 1987, the EU’s Erasmus exchange programme (short for European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students), provides scholarships to students studying in Europe, with over 4,000 institutions taking part. The programme has a budget of 14.7 billion euros, and provides opportunities for over 40 lakh Europeans to study, train, and gain experience abroad. The exchange study duration can be from 3 to 12 months, with students typically going in the second or third year of their course.
The eligibility of individuals and organisations to participate in Erasmus depends on where they are based. The scheme divides eligible countries into two groups: the first being ‘Programme countries’– which include all EU members and some non-EU countries such as Turkey and Iceland. These countries can take part in the scheme in its entirety.
The other group ‘Partner countries’–which includes India– can only take part in some parts of the Erasmus programme, and are subject to specific conditions.
The programme also includes Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EJMDS), a full degree scholarship for masters students worldwide, who go on to take classes at institutes in two Programme countries. In 2017, Indian students were the biggest beneficiaries of EJMDS, with 74 students from the country getting their scholarships approved for masters and doctoral degrees. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
Britain and Erasmus
The UK is currently listed as a non-EU programme country on the Erasmus website, and is described as “a participating country during the transition period, until 31 December 2020”.
As per the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, which came into force on February 1 this year, the UK will continue to derive benefits from the EU funding programmes, such as Erasmus, as long as those programmes last– even if that date exceeds the duration of the Brexit transition period, which ends on December 31, 2020.
As per a report in The Independent, there is still funding for Erasmus at the end of the transition period, meaning students and staff members would be able to complete exchanges and receive funding until the end of the 2021-22 academic year. British students, would, however, be subject to new immigration restrictions that the EU would choose to impose on them in the post-Brexit future.
If the talks fail, Britain will formally leave Erasmus at the end of the year, the same time it leaves the EU. Observers say that Britain’s continued presence in Erasmus is unlikely, given the UK government’s announcement that it would consider participating in “elements” of the programme “on a time-limited basis, provided the terms are in the UK’s interests.”
Departure from Erasmus could mean a significant economic blow for the UK’s education sector. Under the programme, 16,561 UK students went abroad to study in 2017, while 31,727 EU nationals came to Britain. As per Universities UK International (UUKI), the Erasmus programme adds revenues worth £243 million to the British economy every year, after deducting costs from the overall £420 million earned from EU students visiting the country as part of the scheme.
The British government, however, has confirmed in November that it would fund a domestic alternative to Erasmus, under which British students would receive funds to go abroad. The scheme, however, would not support EU students studying at universities in the UK, as per Politico.