Following the publication of the Government’s Brexit negotiating strategy this morning, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP has warned that the UK “has one foot out of the door” on Erasmus.
Section 21 of the document reveals that the UK will “consider options for participation in elements of Erasmus+ [after 2021] on a time-limited basis, providing the terms are in the UK’s interests.”
This suggests that the UK may seek looser membership of Erasmus as a ‘partner country’, which would mean less funding for British universities and colleges to offer student and staff exchanges. Instead, they would be reliant on their partners in EU member states to manage projects and funding on their behalf.
Universities have warned that partner country status will mean fewer opportunities to study abroad, higher costs, less influence over the future of the programme and a possible cap on the number of students who are able to take part.
Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to maintain full, ‘programme country’ status in Erasmus after 2021, playing a full part in the exchange programme and contributing to its budget.
Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson, Layla Moran MP said:
“This will be a disaster for young people. Boris Johnson told us that there is ‘no threat to the Erasmus scheme’ but now he’s revealed that the UK has one foot out of the door.
“Instead of ensuring that our universities remain open, international and outward looking, these proposals show that Brexit means going it alone. Instead, the UK will presumably waste millions on a replacement scheme that won’t match Erasmus’ reputation or size.
“We have a fight on our hands to save Erasmus. Liberal Democrats will continue leading this charge to stop the Conservatives recklessly taking us out of this and other vital EU programmes.
“Erasmus has achieved something our parents could only dream of: the chance to live, work and study abroad at an affordable price. We must not let Boris Johnson weaken our universities and limit young people’s horizons.”
Section 21 of the Government’s document, the future relationship with the EU: the UK’s approach to negotiations, states:
“The UK will consider options for participation in elements of Erasmus+ on a time-limited basis, provided the terms are in the UK’s interests.”
In February 2019, the House of Lords EU Select Committee published a report on Erasmus membership, which considered the differences between programme country and partner country status.
It concluded that partner country status was not an attractive option (section 176), because:
- The UK would be reliant on partners in programme countries to manage Erasmus projects on its behalf (section 118);
- There would be fewer opportunities for UK students to take part in work placements abroad (section 118);
- The UK would be in a worse position to influence the programme (section 118);
- The Government could have to provide funding for both incoming and outcoming students. When similar conditions were imposed upon Switzerland, it had to apply a cap on the number of students taking part (section 119).
The Committee also concluded that, if the UK developed its own alternative student mobility programme to Erasmus, the Government would find it “impossible to replicate aspects of Erasmus which are key to facilitating international exchanges, namely, the programme’s strong brand, trusted reputation, common rulebook and framework for partnership agreements, and its established network of potential partners.” (section 177)