The Erasmus Scheme, the much-loved language learning scheme which allowed young people throughout Europe to study languages and gain work experience in EU member states, is set to become unavailable to UK students. Since 1987, the scheme has provided millions of young Europeans the opportunity to spend one academic term or year abroad.
As recently as 2019, 54,619 students and trainees took advantage of the scheme, studying and working in some of the UK’s closest neighbours, France, Germany and Spain.
Unfortunately, as a direct result of Brexit, UK students no longer have the right to participate. From September, the scheme is being replaced by the UK Government-led Turing Scheme, named after the mathematician Alan Turing, famed for breaking the Enigma Code.
In this article, we will investigate how the Turing Scheme compares to Erasmus, ask how language learning in the UK could be affected, and consider the impact to the language skill set of the UK workforce.
Why has Erasmus come to an end?
The UK Government turned down an offer to continue participating in the Erasmus Scheme after the Brexit deal was finalised. UK Universities Minister Michelle Donelan has said that the Turing Scheme, its replacement, will “enable up to 35,000 students throughout the UK to work or study across the globe.”
If these figures are accurate, the number of UK students spending valuable time overseas learning language skills will fall significantly from the 2019 peak.
The government considers the Turing Scheme to be less a replacement than an improvement on Erasmus. But is this true or just a bit of political spin?
The impact of Erasmus
The Erasmus Scheme, named after Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, has distributed almost €900m of funding to UK Erasmus+ projects since 2014, of which 930,000 students were involved.
Erasmus was an inclusive programme offering grants to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to develop their love of languages and language skills abroad. The scheme also supported the participation of colleges, giving young people a clear pathway into learning languages before progressing to higher education.
Moreover, apprentices, schools and teachers could participate in Erasmus, opening it up to the wider education sector.
The Erasmus Scheme was jointly funded by EU member states. However, with the UK pulling out of the European Union (Northern Ireland will remain an Erasmus member), the government will have to foot the bill of the Turing Scheme entirely. Currently, £110 million has been allocated for the first year of the scheme as it launches this September.
Criticism by the Scottish and Welsh governments
The Turing Scheme has come in for some intense criticism by the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales.
Both nations fought to remain members of Erasmus, publishing a joint statement, condemning the plan, stating it “pales in comparison”. The statement also went on to describe the Turing Scheme as a “lesser imitation of the real thing.”
Eventually, the Welsh government announced it would run its own alternative programme, the New International Learning Exchange.
Scotland lobbied to re-join Erasmus following Brexit, but they were ultimately unsuccessful as the Scotsman reported that the European Commission President had the final word saying it was “not possible” for Scotland to re-join, being a member of the United Kingdom, which had left the EU.
How is the Turing Scheme different to Erasmus?
The Turing Scheme cuts the available cost of living expenses by a fifth of Erasmus levels. The Turing Scheme will offer £490 of support per year, £140 less than the £630 offered by the Erasmus Scheme.
Supporters of the Turing Scheme may counter that it has advantages over Erasmus, in that it offers the ability to study around the world, not only in Europe. However, this laudable principle could actually narrow the field of participation, with travel costs of more far-flung destinations being prohibitive for many.
This lack of academic support for students could potentially turn off students from applying to language degrees and studying abroad when the opportunity is presented.
Additionally, the government is yet to announce how tuition fees, which vary widely across universities and degree subjects, will be covered.
The Turing Scheme also requires institutions to bid for funding in order to join. Could this mean that only the very richest or most well-equipped institutions join the scheme? What will it mean for diversity of opportunity?
What will be the impact on the UK workforce?
If your organisation does business abroad, perhaps you have offices overseas, or you have international trading partners, the ability to attract multilingual speakers to your organisation is something you rely upon to continue trading overseas and expanding internationally.
Erasmus facilitated the steady flow of European students to the UK, keen to study English and pursue a career in the UK. The reverse rung true for UK students, who went abroad for a term or a year, picking up crucial language skills applicable to your business challenges.
Should the Turing Scheme prove less popular for both UK and European language learners, the supply of talent ready to apply to your latest positions could be severely limited.
Having someone in your team with the cultural experiences afforded by studying abroad with the appreciation for the differences between different countries is an invaluable asset. The most successful international growth strategies are backed up by re-strategising to tailor an international marketing approach to specific markets.
Rarely is translating your businesses approach enough to truly break through in a new market, unless your proposition is totally unique, you already have a foothold in your target market or your international expansion is sufficiently scaled up.
We’re keeping a close eye on developments
The Turing Scheme launches this September, and as many other interested parties in the languages and education sectors, we’re keeping a close eye on how the scheme develops.
For the sake of language learning in the UK and the growth of multinational businesses, we hope the Turing Scheme proves a suitable replacement for the celebrated Erasmus Scheme.
If your business needs talented language speakers to help you formulate your international marketing plan, translate key marketing materials and lend you an air of authenticity in a new market, get in touch with us today. To learn more about our translators, read more about our translation services, which have been taken advantage of by more than 1,300 satisfied clients, in sectors as diverse as manufacturing and medical, from Mauritius to Moldova.