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UK would face “formidable challenge” to replicate Erasmus programs

The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has called on the UK government to clarify its plans for the country’s future access to Erasmus, warning that it would be a “formidable challenge” to try to replicate at a national level the benefits of the EU’s programs.

The Committee urged the UK and the EU to work together to avoid any disruption to Erasmus+ placements in the event of a no-deal scenario. Photo: Wikicommons/ Dave Kellam.

Losing access would "disproportionately affect" people from disadvantaged backgrounds

In its report ‘Brexit: the Erasmus and Horizon programmes’, the Committee urged the UK and the EU to work together to avoid any disruption to Erasmus+ placements in the event of a no-deal scenario.

“It is in the UK and the EU’s mutual interest to preserve current close levels of cooperation”

It also stated that losing access to the program would “disproportionately affect” people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities.

“We strongly believe…that it is in the UK and the EU’s mutual interest to preserve current close levels of cooperation on research and innovation and educational mobility, and that the UK should participate fully in the Erasmus and Horizon Europe programs as an associated third country,” the report reads.

In preparation for the event of a no-deal scenario, the government has committed to underwrite funding to ensure UK participants can continue to access Erasmus+ until the end of 2020.

However, how this guarantee will operate in practice, including who will disburse the funding and what terms and conditions will apply to beneficiaries as yet remains unclear.

The Committee also urges the Government to confirm whether it will seek full association to the 2021–2027 Erasmus program as soon as possible to maximise certainty and stability for UK students and researchers.

Whether the UK leaves the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement or in a no-deal scenario, it could still seek to participate in the next phase of the Erasmus program as a third country.

In terms of this future relationship, the Committee’s report concluded the UK should seek to participate fully in the next phase of the Erasmus program as an associated third country.

“If association to Erasmus cannot be negotiated,” the report reads, “it will be essential to establish an alternative UK mobility scheme”.

“However, even with comparative financial investment, it will be impossible for the UK to replicate at the national level several key aspects of Erasmus, including its strong brand, trusted reputation, common rulebook.. and its established network of potential partners.”

The report also warns that smaller organisations will struggle to establish and maintain exchange partnerships without the support of Erasmus, and while expanding mobility opportunities beyond Europe would be welcome, they should not be prioritised at the expense of exchanges “on our doorstep”.

Commenting on the report, chairman of the Committee Lord Jay of Ewelme said the Committee “strongly believe” that close cooperation between the UK and the EU in this area should be preserved and that the UK should seek an association agreement to ensure it can participate fully in the next Erasmus program.

“The UK has received substantial amounts of funding from Erasmus but the value of participating in this program cannot be measured simply in financial terms,” he said.

“Erasmus improves people’s employment prospects, increases opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and facilitates international collaboration in the field of education.

“International students in the UK also contribute to the UK’s economic growth and ‘public diplomacy’, promoting positive international perceptions of the UK and supporting cultural, political and trade ties,” he added.

In January, university leaders said a no-deal Brexit would constitute one of the biggest threats faced by the further education sector.

“There’s so much uncertainty because of Brexit”

And more recently, Norwegian students were cautioned by the country’s Higher Education minister Iselin Nybø to consider taking their exchange in countries other than the UK because of uncertainty around Brexit and the continuation of study abroad programs.

Speaking to NRK, Iselin Nybø said the uncertainty associated with the Erasmus program is “great”.

“There’s so much uncertainty because of Brexit. If you’re a student and plan to travel out of Norway to study this autumn, I recommend you look at other countries than Great Britain,” she added.

On those studying for a full degree in the UK, she said: “If someone wants to start on a degree program now, that will probably work out fine, but there is still some uncertainty concerning how much bureaucracy it will entail.”

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