Study Abroad Scheme Threatened by Brexit Uncertainty

September 13, 2019
By Zainab Hashmi

The University of Edinburgh’s involvement in the Erasmus study abroad programme could be threatened by a no-deal Brexit.

The European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) programme is essential in facilitating studying or working abroad in over 30 European countries.

As the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looms, UK higher education students are at risk of losing out on the many benefits that taking part in Erasmus can offer, above all students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Founded in 1987, Erasmus is a European Union-funded scheme that facilitates study and work exchanges across Europe. 5.5 million students will have taken part in the programme by 2020, many of whom will have studied at the University of Edinburgh.

There are many ways to study or work abroad while at university, but Erasmus is an attractive and often the only option for many students. While other schemes can require students to pay, Erasmus participants are exempt from paying fees to their host university. UK students are able to access grants of up to 520 euros per month, and further funding is available for those with physical and mental health-related conditions.

According to the Erasmus website, “all existing Erasmus+ and ESC projects that have a contract to deliver funded activities are advised to continue to do so”, although it is unclear what the situation will be for applicants hoping to apply for 2020 exchanges.

There is uncertainty over participation beyond this, although the government claims that they are searching for alternatives.Without Erasmus funding, students with compulsory study abroad as part of their degree may struggle financially, while students who have the option of studying abroad may be discouraged.

It is also likely fewer EU students would come to the UK on an exchange.

Statistically, a year abroad has been shown to be beneficial, both academically and professionally, with study abroad students 19 percent more likely to get a first and 20 percent less likely to be unemployed.

Recently, Scottish further and higher education minister Richard Lochhead wrote a joint letter with Welsh minister Kirsty Williams calling on the UK education secretary/government to continue participating in the scheme.Proportionally, more Scottish students take part in Erasmus than in any other country in the UK, with numbers estimated at more than 15 thousand students and staff.

Other groups that benefit greatly from Erasmus are those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Disadvantaged students receive 120 euros on top of the standard grant if they are studying abroad, and support for students with health-related conditions includes online mental health monitoring and funding for adapted rooms.