UK universities should not mourn the loss of Erasmus

For Janet Beer, it is time to accept the opportunities and flexibility that the new Turing programme can offer.

Janet Beer is vice chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

It is probably time to say as a sector that although we regret the loss of Erasmus, there were some shortcomings in the organisation of the programme; most notably adherence to the traditional student exchange of a full academic year or semester spent at a partner institution in the EU.

It was therefore short on the flexibility that many of today’s students need, leading many to miss out on the benefits of studying abroad.

So, the government’s replacement Turing Scheme should be welcomed by universities as a moment to offer students new forms of study abroad opportunities. The flexibility in the scheme – revealed by the government today – will give many more students the opportunity to embark on periods of work or study abroad; particularly mature learners, and those with part-time jobs or caring responsibilities.

The whole world

It will also provide funding for study in many countries beyond Europe, which previously was only possible for those students who could fund it themselves. Shorter periods abroad, with dedicated staff support, will allow universities to provide tailored programmes for students who would otherwise not have the social or financial capital to experience studying overseas.

For instance, in 2019 my institution managed to find exceptional funding to support a summer programme for 20 University of Liverpool students to attend the University of Georgia at Athens to discover US culture and history. The fully funded programme was designed specifically for students from postcodes with low participation rates in higher education.

Given the right support, the Turing Scheme offers us the prospect of building up more of these types of partnership, as well as reinforcing existing ones, inside and outside of the European Union. Alongside our long-standing association with the University of Georgia, we are keen to seek out new opportunities to expand our options with other US partners, including further short term opportunities. We are also very excited about working with institutions in Japan, where higher education is currently undergoing a wave of internationalisation. Short term Japanese language and culture programmes could be offered to students who would not be able to fund such travel themselves.

The spice of life

Offering a variety of international experiences to our students and developing them as global citizens is hugely important to us as an institution, and the Turing Scheme will enable us to make it a reality at scale for our students. Erasmus at Liverpool, as with many UK other institutions, largely, though not exclusively, funded language students on their compulsory year abroad; the coverage for students from other disciplines was patchier. Modern languages still stand to benefit from the change, however, as they can now be offered the chance to study in a greater range of destinations than mainland Europe.

Of course, we are not turning our back on our European friends and partners. We will continue to work as hard as ever to encourage our students to take the opportunity to learn and work in Europe, and we hope to find the ways and means to welcome many EU students to Liverpool in the years to come.

But if we get this right, institutions will be able to offer short, tailored, Turing-funded programmes for students from a wide variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines. We should, therefore, be ambitious with our expectations from the programme. Only 8 per cent of UK undergraduates took up the chance to study, work or volunteer abroad in 2018–19, which is low compared to international standards. Yes, it is probably the case that the new Erasmus programme, 2021-2027, will have the capacity to offer more flexibility for short term or blended mobility, but we have every incentive now, across the sector, to take advantage of the widening of the offer for a greater number of students, on a much-extended range of outbound opportunities through the Turing Scheme.

17 responses to “UK universities should not mourn the loss of Erasmus

  1. Nothing about Erasmus prevented the excellent links with Japan. Germany has its own international partnership scheme. The Tory government pulled the UK out of Erasmus because they don’t want our students mixing with other young Europeans. Goodness knows why.

    1. It pulled out because it costs the UK 2 billion quid and mostly is used by children of the upper middle class.
      Good move.

      1. My wife the daughter of a Hartlepool welder used the scheme to learn Spanish. Came home, became a state school teacher… Inspired other working class kids to aspire and do similar. Our daughter now in Porto the last Erasmus year. The exact opposite will happen now, only wealthy kids will study in Europe to learn a language. Turing is elitist folly. If you don’t know the facts, just don’t bother eh.

        1. Paul you are incorrect. Please read the *widening access ” page on the official Turing program website.

          Erasmus+ had a 76% uptake from higher mobility students which the government are keen to readdress.

          Extra funding (travel costs etc) and priority will be given given to low income (less than 25k household income), first time family member university student, etc onto the Turing program.

          Know the facts first.

          1. Dear Garry,

            Yes, let us look at the facts. Some of the shortcomings of Erasmus, as Dame Janet acknowledged at the very end of her piece, will be addressed in the new programme for 2021/2027.

            Also, what is the point of actively reducing the opportunities for a great number of students from all backgrounds to study in Europe by simply withdrawing from Erasmus? If the UK felt that Erasmus did not do enough for students from lower income households, why not ameliorate rather than withdraw and destroy? No one has hindered UK governments to do just that – offer additional funding within or outside the Erasmus scheme – to student from lower income households.

            I would also encourage you to wait and see how much funding will actually go to low income students. The Turing scheme will have to make it financially attractive to universities in the US and Japan, for instance, to take UK students. How many places – priority places or otherwise – will the UK government fund. I would suggest that fewer students from low income households than before might be able to travel, and only to select countries.

            Finally, watch the phrase “short-term” … Of course, it is great to spend a few weeks abroad, but it is not the same as spending a semester or a year abroad, and immerse yourself in the culture, the language, and make contacts and networks for life.

            Talk to some people who did, Garry. There are more facts out there than you seem to think.

  2. It looks like Turing won’t include a staff mobility strand, weakening links across the EU. It is also unclear whether organisational funding will be included. Most notably, visa requirements will probably price the most disadvantaged students out of mobility and limit inbound students. Erasmus was expanding specfically to address social mobility. My guess is that less students will undertake mobility, and more affluent students will dominate. There is plenty for us to mourn the loss of.

    1. What you’ve assumed is counter to what is actually stated on the Turing website. Read about “widening access” on the official Turing website and you’ll see the government are keen to address the unbalanced 76% erasmus+ participation from more affluent students.

      Extra funding will be giving to lower income students to cover travel costs etc.

      1. Noble ambitions that won’t be realised. The power of Erasmus+ is the reprecocity. Same headline money, spread much more thinnly will not equal more mobility.

  3. You forget the small + at the end! eTwinning was a cheap online collaborative programme enjoyed by 600,000 teachers providing a safe platform for students from primary and secondary school.
    You focus on only the University level of Erasmus.
    You probably know nothing of eTwinning.

    You also fail to recognise the huge benefits of CPD provided by Erasmus+ for educators and that when students visited the UK they spent alot of money on accommodation, restaurants, museum, transport etc.

    Turing offers no reciprocity…..

    Global Britain..? What a joke.

    Brexit didn’t ask if we wanted to withdraw from Erasmus+

    Many countries outside Europe…North Africa, Middle East, are in Erasmus+ programmes….so coming out of Europe is a poor argument for coming out of Erasmus+++–++

    Do your homework !

  4. Erasmus + wasn’t broken, so why on earth did you insist on ‘fixing’ it with something inferior? As others have stated, the Turing Scheme offers no reciprocity, and no financial safeguards for less well-off students. No attempt was made to stay in Erasmus + because it was seen as ‘too expensive’. I think that speaks volumes about the government’s view of education and cultural exchange.

    1. You are wrong. Please read “widening access” on the official Turing program website.

      Extra funding will be given to less affluent students to cover travel costs etc.

      76% of erasmus+ participation was from more affluent students. The government are keen to address this disproportionate uptake.

      1. If 76% of Erasmus+ participation was from more affluent students, what about the 24% who did not come from affluent households? How many opportunities of this kind can you name where almost 25% come from lower income households? I am not suggesting that 24% is good enough, though I would also like to know what the measure should be (30%, 40%, 50%, measured against which benchmark). And, again, the UK – for decades now – could have offered more support to lower income households and could do so now. Quoting government marketing blurb is not an answer.

  5. No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

  6. Acknowledging shortcomings doesn’t make it any less of a loss. This feels incredibly tone deaf.

    PS: Most European Universities offer more equivalent courses between each other when compared to any UK courses – exchanges for 1 year or 1 semester make sense for most students and European institutions.

  7. While I am all for wider opportunities of foreign travel and culture for more students from all backgrounds, I am not sure what this means for students who have chosen to study a language and therefore need to spend a year in the country of that language. Reciprocal university arrangements and support for students were built into Erasmus which encouraged many, but particularly those whose passion and commitment was to inter-ciltural awareness and developing their linguistic capabilities. It remains to be seen whether Turing is an enablement or a constraint for languages students.

  8. What a short sighted with a lot of basic logical mistakes article. Erasmus is one of the best things that happen to the EU. I don’t know about Turing programme but it would nowhere be as diverse an opportunity it provides for Universities students academics alike.

    What a sick joke this article is.

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