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Boris Johnson’s decision to pull the UK out of the Erasmus programme, in favour of his Government’s Turing scheme, has prompted widespread criticism. Dr Hywel Ceri Jones, who was the European Commission’s Director for Education, Training, and Youth, has described the decision as “a severe blow to young people”, whilst Ireland has since pledged funding to keep Northern Ireland within the scheme.

The decision to abandon Erasmus is mystifying when reviewing the evidence. For example, a 2019 survey of 31 colleges, conducted by the Association of Colleges, found that “three-quarters gave the programme a full five out of five score for its benefits to the institution, with only three percent giving it a three and no scores below that”. Likewise, “57 colleges were granted funding to send staff and students abroad, up from 28 colleges six years before”.  With all this positive news, it is only logical that Johnson’s decision to exit the Erasmus scheme was on the premise that the Turing scheme is a much-improved version.

However, this does not seem to be the case. Erasmus offers placements for teachers, college staff, and youth workers, whilst the Turing scheme does not. Rather, the Turing scheme only allows staff to “accompany learners abroad for safeguarding purposes”. Compared to the Erasmus scheme, this highlights one area in which the Turing scheme is not as generous. 

In principle, this is because such staff are now not as easily able to experience different cultural approaches to teaching, meaning the quality of teaching will undoubtedly suffer. In the long-term, this staff underdevelopment would slow the personal development of all students who are unarguably the bedrock to our nation’s future. In practice, the scale of this underdevelopment is most apparent in the “1,152 UK staff who completed an Erasmus placement in 2020, according to Ecorys”. Thus, the Government must increase the funding of the Turing scheme to continue the invaluable international teacher training, and to ensure our future generations are not indirectly affected.

The Turing programme has another design flaw that makes it less generous than the Erasmus programme, namely its inability to financially support inbound students. This is contrary to Erasmus which offers grants to support travel and living costs for outgoing and incoming students.  

Going forward, this absence of financial support for incoming students could render UK universities unattractive, inevitably leading to a decrease in the number of European students wanting to study in the UK. This is particularly true when considering the extra visa and healthcare costs following Brexit. According to the University of Cambridge, students will be required to pay an “immigration health surcharge that amounts to £470, in addition to a visa application fee”, after leaving the European Union. To top it off, the chance of success for the Turing scheme is further reduced by the competing Erasmus scheme, whose European members offer various English-speaking courses already. In parallel, the Erasmus scheme also contains no entry surcharges which disincentivises using the Turing scheme even more.

Ultimately, the Turing scheme needs to adopt a Swiss-style programme, which still pays for inward and outward student mobility despite no longer being a member of the Erasmus programme. If this were to happen, UK universities would become a viable route for international students once more. Furthermore, making the Turing scheme more affordable for international students would also increase international awareness and promote social mobility amongst UK students. For the Turing scheme, this policy would somewhat reciprocate the generosity shown in the Erasmus programme.

For the Turing scheme to achieve its objectives and truly support the Government’s ambition of ‘Global Britain’, it must provide inward and outward student mobility, and greater funding, to ensure our teachers are not left behind.

Tom is currently undertaking work experience at Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image: Christophe Meneboeuf]