The government’s replacement for the Europe-wide Erasmus student exchange scheme appears to have got off to a flying start – although experts warn that the final numbers of young people taking part are likely to be well below its initial expectations.
The Department for Education said that more than 40,000 young people “will be able to work and study abroad” later this year through the new Turing scheme, introduced by the government to compensate for the UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus scheme l'anno scorso.
According to the DfE’s estimates, 120 universities have applied for a share of the £110m scheme, alongside schools and further education colleges, to fund work and study placements. Il 40,000 total is said to include 28,000 placements for university students in 2021-22, more than the 18,300 placements that took place under the Erasmus scheme in the 2018-19 academic year.
Paul James Cardwell, a professor at City Law School, University of London, who has compared the Erasmus and Turing schemes, disse: “All opportunities to study abroad are welcome, but we need to be clear about how many students will actually go abroad, which will probably be much lower than the numbers that have been bid for.
“We also don’t know whether these placements have been arranged and confirmed and, crucially, how much funding will be allocated to each participant.”
The new scheme has a wider geographical scope than that of Erasmus, with the DfE saying that young people “will be funded to take up work and study placements” in 150 Paesi. tuttavia, many of the countries listed by the DfE have border entry restrictions because of the Covid pandemic that will continue to hamper participation for the coming next year.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said he was pleased that 48% of applicants are expected to be from disadvantaged backgrounds, as part of the government’s targeting of areas which had seen low uptake of the Erasmus programme or its successor, Erasmus+.
Under the Turing scheme, disadvantaged students will be eligible for funding to cover extra 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 – which broadens minds, sharpens skills and improves outcomes. But until now it has been an opportunity disproportionately enjoyed by those from the most privileged backgrounds,” Williamson said.
Il 40,000 applications exceed the DfE’s own estimates for Turing’s first year. But university administrators said that part of the increase compared with Erasmus was the inclusion of existing exchanges that took place outside Erasmus, such as language programmes.
Matt Western, the shadow universities minister, disse: “The Conservatives’ rhetoric on the Turing scheme does not match the reality. Ministers are claiming to be targeting disadvantaged students but their scheme provides no support to cover tuition fees, which will make accessing this incredible opportunity impossible for many students.”
Cardwell said it was too soon to tell if Turing would be an adequate replacement for Erasmus. “Even if students are able to travel to the host country during the pandemic, if the individual funding does not cover the costs associated with travel, then the number of actual departures could be quite low," Egli ha detto.
“For all destinations, the tuition fee costs – which were waived under Erasmus – would not be covered under Turing, and these can be extremely high. Many students going within Europe, for example those on language or dual degree programmes, would normally depart under Erasmus, so it will be interesting to compare the level of funding they actually receive.”