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Erasmus funding key for UK mobility, but alternative options available

Erasmus+ funding remains a key enabler for British students choosing to go overseas, even though other options for funding for short-term mobility programs are available, delegates heard at UUKi’s Go International conference 2019 this week.

DAAD's head of section information on studying abroad, Alexander Haridi said German universities are looking for UK partners should Britain leave the Erasmus+ program. Photo: The PIE News

But UK politicians are broadly behind a move to ensure broad mobility can be maintained. Speaking at UUKi’s Go International conference 2019, Roberta Blackman Woods, MP for the City of Durham and shadow minister for Planning and Local Government, explained that there is cross-party support for the UK remaining a part of the program.

“There is cross party support for Erasmus and we are pushing for it”

“It’s not an issue that we are ignoring,” she stated.

The House of Lords held an enquiry into the Erasmus+ program, along with debates, and written and oral questions were discussed in both chambers in 2019, she said.

“Those of us who care passionately about programs like Erasmus+ are trying to ensure that that stays up the political agenda, and that it’s a key feature of what needs to be sorted out through the Brexit process,” she told delegates.

“There is cross party support for Erasmus and we are pushing for it.”

Blackman Woods also indicated the Erasmus program’s budget doubling from 2021-27 should attract the UK to remain part of the program. The UK has seen €1bn in its Erasmus+ budget, which has enabled about 250,000 people to undertake activities, she added.

The government should provide its guarantee that the UK’s participation in 2020-21 is “definitely going to happen”, she argued.

“And what we are all waiting for is what is going to happen post 2020, and post Brexit,” Blackman Woods noted.

UK Universities minister Chris Skidmore has previously said the UK will build its own international mobility scheme if Erasmus is not a viable option after Brexit.

But Erasmus funding is generous, universities noted this week. On top of the normal mobility options, the program also funds training and volunteering.

“It’s important to ask students to fund their own programs”

“[Traineeships are] a really good way for an institution to use up any Erasmus grant funding [they] may have leftover from other projects,” Anna Moscrop, study abroad manager at Exeter University said.

However funding for study abroad extends beyond Erasmus+, university representatives also emphasised.

Santander Universities is a “major donor” for the university’s mobility program, Moscrop added.

“I think it’s important to ask students to fund their own programs… we all have a lack of core funding,” the University of Bristol’s deputy director international and head of global opportunities Beverly Orr-Ewing added.

Overseas partners also provide cash to support international mobility, Orr-Ewing noted.

“The country that I found best for that is China – that’s one of the reasons why a lot of our short programs are in China.”

Senior management at Bristol are also happy to use corporate air miles going towards student mobility lowering the cost of traveling abroad, she explained.

UUKi’s recent Gone International report is looked at with envy from Germany according to DAAD’s head of section information on studying abroad Alexander Haridi.

“I wish we had such a single unified document in Germany to serve as a common platform for politicians, university leaders and business,” he said. “You have the platform, but we have the cross party consensus and support.”

If the UK leaves the EU without a plan for the Erasmus, German universities are looking to forge partnerships to maintain mobility opportunities, Haridi noted.

It’s important to maintain contact with European partners, Mathilde Lerebours, from the Campus France Desk at the Embassy of France in London, suggested.

Non-EU countries are part of Erasmus, and it may be “possible to negotiate between universities”, she said.

“It’s also very important to keep raising awareness among UK students because it will come down to them to study abroad. Obviously Erasmus is a really big opportunity to do that, but you can do it in other ways. The US shows that.”

Amanda Crameri from Movetia – Austausch und Mobilitat in Switzerland added: “As the Swiss example shows, you will be able to maintain inbound and outbound mobility.”

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