Turing scheme
Following Brexit, the UK will launch its own study and work abroad programme in September 2021. Source: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

The UK government has committed 100 million pounds to the Turing scheme, a study and work abroad programme set to replace its participation in Erasmus+ beginning September 2021. According to the official release, it aims to fund 35,000 students in universities, colleges, and schools abroad — and institutions are welcome to start applying to participate in 2021. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it will afford British students the opportunity to “not just to go to European universities but to go to the best universities in the world.”

Brought about by Brexit

The UK has been part of the Erasmus exchange programme since 1987. Over 200,000 people took part in the latest version of Erasmus+. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, however, the two parties were unable to agree on the cost of the UK’s continued participation in Erasmus.

Leaving the programme is anticipated to cost the UK economy 200 million pounds, as the country received twice as many students as it sent away. Greater still is the loss of international exchange opportunities, which previously allowed 35,000 British students to pursue higher education abroad. In return, students from partner countries got to experience a UK education. Many stayed on for graduate studies, while others returned home to spread the word of their experience abroad. It was a soft power dream for participating countries.

Experts divided on Turing scheme

While certain quarters are lauding the sizeable investment, others are more critical of this new scheme’s design, especially its strict focus on British citizens. Professor Paul James Cardwell from the University of Strathclyde, who has brokered exchange deals with universities, points out that setting up non-Erasmus agreements with universities involves wading through months of bureaucracy. Plus, there is little incentive for incoming students if the Turing scheme only covers British nationals. “The UK might be an attractive destination, but also a costly one and the visa rules for students are off-putting,” he tweeted.

Others paint an optimistic picture for the future of the Turing scheme. “We have designed a truly international scheme which is focused on our priorities, delivers real value for money and forms an important part of our promise to level up the UK,” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson commented. Universities UK International Director Vivienne Stern called the Turing scheme a “fantastic development” despite earlier expressing disappointment at the UK’s Erasmus exit. “As I understand it, there will be grants for young people not just in universities but broader than that, to support study and possibly working and volunteering. These experiences help graduates gain employment, especially for students from low-income backgrounds who are the least likely to be able to travel abroad otherwise,” Stern said.