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#Brexit will limit the horizons of college students

The Association of Colleges has today published a survey revealing that 94% of colleges would be unable to fund student and staff mobility programmes outside of the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. 

The Erasmus+ Programme is a European-wide mobility programme that funds opportunities for students and young people to  train, learn and work across Europe. There is a real risk that without continued funding for student mobility, these chances will only be accessible to those who can afford it.

An Association of Colleges study published today shows that 94% of colleges could not offer their students the chance to complete a placement abroad without Erasmus+ or a post-Brexit replacement programme. A decade of cuts means college budgets are stretched.

The study also showed that 100% of college students who take part in Erasmus+ return with increased self-confidence alongside other key soft skills. Erasmus+ benefits many students who have had few positive chances in life and for some, participation in the programme means their first time leaving their local area and often their first time travelling abroad.

Employers will also lose out without Erasmus+ or a robust replacement. Businesses have been clear that they are struggling to find workers with the skills they need – especially outside of large urban areas. In some sectors such as social care, there are not sufficient work placement opportunities available in the UK and Erasmus+ provides the chance to gain vital experience overseas. 

To ensure no young person is left behind after Brexit AoC makes the following recommendations:

  • Government should pursue every avenue to say in the Erasmus+ programme, regardless of the outcome of Brexit
  • If staying in Erasmus+ is not possible, the Government should launch a replacement programme that guarantees the same level of access and opportunity as Erasmus+ does now.
  • Government should urgently convene vocational, higher education, youth and sport organisations across the education sector to discuss the future of Erasmus+ in the UK.
  • Any replacement programme should not be restricted to the Commonwealth, English-speaking countries or to an intra-UK scheme.

Emma Meredith, AoC’s International Director said: 

“Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, young people’s futures must be protected. Erasmus+ is the key route for college students to experience a short period working or training in another country. Our survey clearly shows that the programme is too valuable and beneficial to not be invested in or replaced, if or when the UK leaves the European Union. 

“The current international education strategy must go further if the Government is serious about helping the UK punch above its weight internationally and serious about providing parity of opportunity to all students.”

Ann Marie Graham, Chief Executive at UKCISA said:

“This report clearly demonstrates the benefits of Erasmus and international exchange on the FE sector. It highlights the impact of studying abroad, and meeting peers from other backgrounds, for all students; from improvements in assessment results to increased personal confidence, communication and team building skills.

“International exchange is critical to the success of our colleges and we urge the government to continue to support this activity through Erasmus+ or a replacement programme.”

Vivienne Stern, Director at Universities UK International said:

“We know through our work at Universities UK International that study abroad leads to many benefits, including greater graduate employability, better degree outcomes and higher salaries. We continue to lobby the government, through our #SupportStudyAbroad campaign, to keep funding vital and invaluable study abroad opportunities for UK students, such as ERASMUS+, post Brexit. Without this continued funding, 17,000 students will miss out on study abroad opportunities next year.”

Erasmus+ is funded by the European Union (EU) and provides education, training, youth and sport opportunities. The EU has operated exchange and mobility programmes for over 30 years, with over 100 colleges benefitting directly. Erasmus+ is the single biggest source of mobility and exchange funding in colleges. The current commitment from the Government to underwrite current and approved projects until 2020 only guarantees the UK institution’s project. It does nothing for its EU 27 partners.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran MP said:

“Brexit shuts the door on students and staff studying, training and working across Europe. This survey shows that colleges simply can’t afford their student exchange programmes without the funding that the EU provides through Erasmus+.

“Colleges are wary about replacing Erasmus+ with a British-led alternative because they know how easy and convenient it is to partner with our closest neighbours. The Government is prepared to deny students the opportunity to study in Europe at an affordable price.

“Liberal Democrats demand better for students. By stopping Brexit, we can save the UK’s participation in Erasmus+ at a time when its budget is about to expand massively.

“We will not give up on providing students with the opportunity to experience other cultures, make new friendships, share ideas and widen their horizons.”

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