Higher education experts have called on David Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the EU, to protect the popular student exchange scheme following concerns over the fact that he has yet to guarantee the U.K.’s continued participation in the program.
The Erasmus student exchange program’s leaders are worried that the scheme, which has been running for 30 years, will be sidelined during Brexit negotiations, and at worst, may no longer be an option for students in the U.K.
The program’s director, Ruth Sinclair-Jones, told the Guardian: “We do really want there to be prioritisation on the Erasmus Plus because it is important – it has a direct impact on the students and the economy.”
David Davis has not guaranteed the UK will continue to participate in the Erasmus scheme: https://t.co/qDzhQsnUGe
— Guardian Students (@gdnstudents) September 13, 2016
“It is hugely popular in the U.K. and the results of surveys demonstrate the benefits. Students really shine through, their maturity and self-confidence is stronger. Their academic results are higher, there is lower unemployment and higher wages five years on,” added Sinclair-Jones.
The Erasmus Plus program allows students from participating countries to study in one of 33 European countries for free for up to one year, with EU funds covering travel and living expenses and tuition fees waived.
More than 200,000 students have participated in the scheme, and in the last academic year, up to 15,500 U.K. students benefited from the program, with some 7,000 academic staff also studying abroad.
— UUK International (@UUKIntl) September 13, 2016
In fact, the minister for universities and science, Jo Johnson, is counted among Erasmus alumni, and is expected to push for the continuation of the program in the U.K.
“As a student in Belgium and France I was able to brush up on my language skills and experience life in another country. I want everyone to have that chance,” he wrote in the Guardian in June.
Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud and chair of the parliamentary education select committee, has also emphasized the importance of maintaining links and opportunities between European institutions and the U.K. post-Brexit.
On Twitter, some have expressed their dismay over the possible discontinuation of the program in the U.K.:
— John Williams (@legalolder) September 13, 2016
— Caroline Potter (@carolinefrmus) September 13, 2016
— Hannah Mays (@Hannah__Mays) September 13, 2016
Government must protect Erasmus in Brexit deal. Vital cultural and education exchange for UK and EU students https://t.co/Eyeu7NMHc5
— Catherine Bearder (@catherinemep) September 13, 2016
According to a 2014 impact study conducted by the European Commission on the Erasmus program, those sent to study or train abroad were twice as likely to find employment in a shorter amount of time compared to those who did not.
The study of 80,000 students also showed that unemployment rates among Erasmus students was 23 percent lower five years after completing the program, showing the program’s positive long-term impact on participants.
The U.K. can opt to stay on as a member of the program, but as a non-EU participant, such as Turkey, Norway, Iceland, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein.
However, funding would have to be sourced directly from universities and the U.K. government.
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