The UK’s Turing Scheme has once again come under fire during a recent parliamentary debate, with MPs concerned that it has “simply fallen behind” the Erasmus offering.
“This scheme, which is supposed to get rid of disadvantage and be inclusive, supporting all, actually puts a massive barrier in the way of those from disadvantaged backgrounds if funding is not in place,” said Carol Monaghan, SNP MP for Glasgow North West and shadow SNP spokesperson for education.
“When the funding provided under Erasmus and the funding provided under Turing are compared, there can be no doubt that there has been a real-terms cut—and that is before we take the cost of living into account,” said Chamberlain.
According to Chamberlain, under Erasmus in 2021, the maximum funding for a UK student travelling to a European study destination was £415 per month or £600 per month for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Under Turing, this amount has fallen to £380 and £490 respectively.
“We have simply fallen behind what Erasmus offers, and the government must review that at the next spending review,” said Chamberlain.
However, Halfon argued that “the Erasmus scheme is not value for money”.
“The UK was putting way more taxpayer money into the scheme than we got out of it,” he added.
Halfon highlighted that Turing was introduced because “a fair and proportionate deal” could not be found for the UK’s continued participation in Erasmus+.
“It was designed from the start to deliver an improved benefit to the UK taxpayer,” he said of Turing.
According to Halfon, universities, colleges and schools will share almost £105 million of funding to offer placements to their students.
“No matter what kind of course students are on, whether they are studying for a degree in foreign languages, doing a T-level or an apprenticeship – the scheme was not open to apprentices before – or a school pupil, opportunities made possible through the Turing scheme can have a hugely positive impact on their studies and their skills development.
“I am not saying the Turing scheme is perfect, but I am proud of it and am working hard in the department to ensure that it is a success,” said Halfon.
He argued that previously 50% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds had access to these schemes, a figure which has now increased to 60%.
MPs continued to argue against the efficacy of the Turing scheme’s single-year cycle funding model, as others have done before. At the moment, institutions are encouraging students to apply for opportunities abroad, but can only tell them what sort of places “might have funding”.
“As our world becomes smaller but remains so divided, it is important for our young people and children to look outwards”
“A 24 or 36-month project cycle would allow institutions to plan partnerships, provide certainty to students and, importantly, ensure wider access for all. That is surely the intention of the Turing scheme, right?” said Chamberlain.
Meanwhile, Chamberlain urged the Scottish government to “get on with it” when it comes to the pilot of its own mobility scheme, using Wales’ progression with Taith as an encouraging example.
“As our world becomes smaller but remains so divided, it is important for our young people and children to look outwards. There is nothing like being immersed in a new country to expand one’s mind,” said Chamberlain.
“I may be over-optimistic, but if we want to tackle the strategic and global issues facing the world, cross-border friendships, knowledge-sharing and cultural ties are an important place to start.”