New ‘Erasmus’ scheme will not pay tuition or travel costs and living allowance slashed

Fresh accusations that ministers are crushing hopes of students who want to live, study and travel abroad

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 09 March 2021 16:56
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Boris Johnson says 'there is no threat to the Erasmus scheme'

The replacement for the Erasmus study exchange scheme will not fund tuition or travel costs, it has emerged – and the living allowance has been slashed.

The reality of the new project has triggered fresh accusations that ministers are crushing the hopes of huge numbers of students who want to live, study and travel abroad.

Boris Johnson promised last year that there was “no threat” to the hugely-popular Erasmus programme, but his Brexit trade deal then pulled the plug.

Amid an outcry, ministers rushed out the announcement of a new “Turing Scheme”, named after the legendary Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing.

But details smuggled out by the Department for Education (DfE) have now revealed far less financial support than was provided by Erasmus – which was scrapped to save money.

The European Commission paid travel costs of up to £1,315, but only students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will receive help from the UK government.

And, most significantly, free studies in any EU country, plus some others in Europe, has been replaced by pressure on universities and colleges to strike deals.

“Turing Scheme funding is not available for tuition fees,” its website admits.

“There is an expectation that HE providers will agree tuition fee waivers with their partner HE providers, in order to facilitate student study placements.”

The Scottish National Party said it had calculated that the cost of living allowance has also been slashed by a fifth.

“Boris Johnson promised that the UK would continue to be a part of Erasmus+. That has turned out to be a massive lie,” said MSP Clare Adamson.

And Matt Western, Labour’s universities spokesman, said: “The government is quick with the rhetoric but is once again failing students.

“The government committed to helping disadvantaged students access study abroad opportunities but without support to cover tuition fees this will be impossible for many.”

But the DfE described the claim of a reduction of a fifth in the living allowance as “incredibly misleading” – and said it “expected tuition fees to be waived.”

“For a typical HE student on a study placement, the grant rates paid under the Turing Scheme will be in line with those under Erasmus+, and in fact will be higher for high cost destinations, and the uplift for disadvantaged students will also be higher,” a spokesperson argued.

The replacement was already under fire over a claim that 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools would go on placements and exchanges, from this September.

Ministers were unable to explain how a scheme costing only £100m could fund the travels of 35,000 students – working out at only £2,850 each.

At present, around 17,000 UK youngsters participate, receiving grants much higher than that for accommodation and living costs in their host country.

It is also unclear whether students will be funded to come to the UK, potentially depriving British universities of a significant source of income.

Not doing so would “blow a hole” in the UK’s economy worth £243m a year, a group of education and business leaders calculated last year.

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