The government’s replacement of the European Erasmus student exchange program appears to have gotten off to a good start – although experts warn the final number of young participants will likely be far below its initial expectations.
The Department of Education said more than 40,000 young people “will be able to work and study abroad” later this year thanks to the new Turing program, introduced by the government to compensate for the UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus program. ‘last year.
According to DfE estimates, 120 universities have applied for a share of the £ 110million program, alongside schools and higher education institutions, to fund internships and study placements. The total of 40,000 would include 28,000 internships for university students in 2021-2022, more than the 18,300 internships that took place under the Erasmus program during the 2018-19 academic year.
Paul James Cardwell, professor at the City Law School, University of London, who compared the Erasmus and Turing programs, said: “All opportunities to study abroad are welcome, but we need to be clear on the number of students who will actually go abroad, which will probably be much lower than the numbers we tendered for.
“We also do not know if these courses have been organized and confirmed and, above all, how much funding will be allocated to each participant. “
The new program has a wider geographic scope than Erasmus, with the DfE saying that young people “will be funded to complete internships and study placements” in 150 countries. However, many countries listed by the DfE have border entry restrictions due to the Covid pandemic which will continue to hamper participation for next year.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was pleased that 48% of applicants are from disadvantaged backgrounds, as part of the government’s targeting of areas that have seen low use of the Erasmus program or its successor, Erasmus +.
Under the Turing program, disadvantaged students will be eligible for funding to cover additional expenses such as visas and passports.
“The chance to work and learn in a country far from home is a once in a lifetime opportunity – one that broadens minds, sharpens skills and improves results. But until now, this has been an opportunity disproportionately taken advantage of by those from the most privileged backgrounds, ”said Williamson.
The 40,000 claims exceed DfE’s own estimates for Turing’s first year. But university administrators said part of the increase from Erasmus was the inclusion of existing exchanges that took place outside of Erasmus, such as language programs.
Matt Western, the shadow universities minister, said, “The Conservative rhetoric on the Turing Project does not match reality. The ministers claim to target disadvantaged students, but their program does not provide any help to cover tuition fees, which will make accessing this incredible opportunity impossible for many students. “
Cardwell said it was too early to say whether Turing would be a suitable Erasmus replacement. “Even though students can travel to the host country during the pandemic, if individual funding does not cover the costs associated with travel, then the number of actual departures could be quite low,” he said.
“For all destinations, the tuition fees – which were cut under Erasmus – would not be covered by Turing, and they can be extremely high. Many students going to Europe, for example those in language or dual degree programs, would normally leave under Erasmus, so it will be interesting to compare the level of funding they actually receive.