Sturgeon slammed for falling far behind Wales in replacing Erasmus

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The Scottish Government has been accused of “neglecting” to replace the Erasmus scheme in comparison with its Welsh counterpart. Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has published a Freedom of Information request which shows that ministers in Holyrood have fallen “far behind” those in Cardiff Bay in setting up a new version of the Erasmus education exchange programme.

Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams last year announced the Taith international learning exchange programme, with £65million of funding provided over five years.

While the SNP had made a similar commitment to establish their own version of the scheme, Scottish ministers have not yet had any specific meetings about an exchange programme and there has been “no money” allocated to it at this time.

According to published figures, the Welsh Government has had 14 people working on their Erasmus replacement, in comparison to just three in Scotland.

In Wales, there are currently 5,698 exchange opportunities lined up.

However, in Scotland, there is not yet a confirmed timetable for consultation.

Erasmus is the European Union’s flagship exchange programme, allowing school and university students from across the bloc to live and work in different countries.

The fully-funded programme was first established in 1987, before evolving into Erasmus+in 2014.

Professor Seán Hand, the University of Warwick’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Europe, said the scheme made studying in the UK for foreign students particularly “attractive” as it allowed for high university fees to be waived.

Since leaving the programme after Brexit, the Government launched its own Turing Scheme in March 2021, sending its first students abroad in September of that year.

It has been called a “global mobility programme” and allows students to travel further afield on their exchanges, with destinations such as the US and Canada now popular choices.

However, the Turing Scheme is not set up for reciprocal arrangements, meaning European students cannot come to the UK to study unless the swap is arranged by individual universities outside of the programme.

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Given that fees will now be much higher, Professor Hand predicts the number of students from Europe coming to study in the UK will fall over time.

The UK Government promised Turing would “improve social mobility targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas”.

Professor Hand explained: “The assertion was made that Erasmus+ reflected the non-discretionary social and economic habits of middle-class students and that Turing would take this into account with a top-up amount of money, a shorter duration, and a quota for widening access places.”

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