Erasmus study abroad programme to be replaced with worldwide ‘Turing scheme’

Michel Barnier said he regretted the UK’s departure from the Erasmus scheme.

Florence, Italy (John Walton/PA)
Florence, Italy (John Walton/PA)

The Erasmus student exchange programme will be replaced in the UK by a worldwide scheme named after code breaker Alan Turing, the Prime Minister has said.

Speaking after the announcement of a trade deal between the UK and the European Union, Boris Johnson said the UK had made a “tough decision” to pull out of the programme for financial reasons.

The Erasmus exchange programme, which the UK joined in 1987, allows students to study and work across Europe.

Mr Johnson said it would be replaced by a worldwide scheme named after Bletchley Park code breaker Alan Turing.

An Alan Turing mural (Campus Party/PA)
An Alan Turing mural (Campus Party/PA)

He said: “We are doing a UK scheme for students to go around the world, it will be called the Turing scheme.

“Students will have the opportunity not just to go to European universities, but the best universities in the world.”

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson tweeted: “Its (Turing’s) outlook will be global, not limited to the EU, and the programme will incorporate opportunities which reflect the government’s promise to level up the country.”

Further details about the new scheme are expected in the coming days.

At a press conference shortly before the Prime Minister spoke, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK’s withdrawal from the programme was one of his regrets.

He said: “I have just two regrets in terms of our societal co-operation.

“Firstly, the British Government decided not to participate in the Erasmus exchange programme.”

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, welcomed the news of a trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

She continued: “While the announcement that the UK will now not be participating in Erasmus+ is disappointing, we are pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to a new UK programme to fund global mobility.

“We now ask the UK government to quickly provide clarity on this Erasmus+ domestic alternative, and that it be ambitious and fully funded. It must also deliver significant opportunities for future students to go global which the Erasmus programme has provided to date.”

The Lower and Upper College Halls at the University of St Andrews, Scotland (Jane Barlow/PA)
The Lower and Upper College Halls at the University of St Andrews, Scotland (Jane Barlow/PA)

The move to leave the Erasmus scheme has been criticised by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who called the decision “cultural vandalism”.

She tweeted: “There will be lots of focus, rightly, on the economic costs of Brexit.

“But ending UK participation in Erasmus, an initiative that has expanded opportunities and horizons for so many young people, is cultural vandalism by the UK Government.”

Labour and Co-Op MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also criticised the scheme, tweeting: “As someone who lobbied & drafted parts of last scheme this will not work.

“UK gains from students coming to UK & Brits gain personally from going abroad.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown had previously called for the UK to remain part of the programme.

In September, Mr Brown said the programme plays a critical role in higher education and research across the country, as well as ensuring all UK students have access to a global education.

More than half the British students who study abroad do so under the Erasmus programme, Mr Brown added.

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