Brexit is also rolling Erasmus + on its head

Brexit is also rolling Erasmus + on its head

With Great Britain exiting the European Union, Erasmus + will change what is the most popular educational program.

A brief mind game: Imagine being offered the opportunity to study in another European country for a few months. You can choose the destination yourself. Which country do you think would choose the most? Spain? Italy? Portugal? You thought wrong: Great Britain was the most popular destination for Austrians who wanted to undergo professional training in 2019 as part of the European Union Erasmus + program. More than 1200 interns – such as people from vocational schools or anyone who wanted to do their internship while studying abroad – chose the UK. Great Britain was one of the three most popular countries for higher education with 755 students. Only Spain (1115) and Germany (1995) were able to attract more students. Jacob Kallis, managing director of OEAD, the local agency for education and internationalization, says, “These figures alone show that Brexit is already a knack for Erasmus +. We are losing access to a lucrative educational country.”

Britain’s exit from Erasmus +

With the exit of the European Union, Great Britain said goodbye to Erasmus +. Erasmus + is the largest European education program, under whose roof all EU programs for lifelong learning, youth and sports as well as cooperation programs in the higher education sector were brought together in 2014. Semesters abroad for students are organized in the form of joint educational projects, adult education programs, student exchanges and internships abroad.

Own exchange program for the British

Kallis points out that Britain’s exit from the Union should not be automatically meant. “There are other non-EU countries as well, for example Serbia. This is a purely political decision.” About a year ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his country wanted to remain part of Erasmus +. But then came the U-turn: Great Britain announced that it wanted to set up its own exchange program – named after Alan Turing, a British mathematician who was able to understand the Wehrmacht’s Enigma code during World War II. OEAD managing director Kallis says, “As things currently stand, this is a fully outgoing program. British students should be able to study abroad.” About 100 million (€ 110 million) will flow into the program in the first year.
35,000 students are to be supported in this way, says Leah Turner, British Ambassador to Vienna. “There is a great interest in British students to travel abroad” in Great Britain. Political scientist James Slum of the Royal Holloway University of London suspects that this interest is indeed: “I believe the ideological assumption behind it is that Erasmus produces very European pro-youth.” And in the opinion of conservative Brexit supporters, this is precisely the attitude that does not fit with the new Great Britain.

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What happens to EU citizens who want to study in the UK?

Good news: Jakob Kallis says that for everyone who has already brought Erasmus + to Great Britain, anything will change. Budget will be spent for projects that have already been approved. “Mostly in 2021 and 2022, some in 2023.” This means that anyone who is already in the UK can complete their program. In addition, due to a more comprehensive budget it is possible to apply to live in Great Britain in the academic year 2021/2022.

And what will happen after 2022?

Is there no possibility of Austrians continuing their education in the British Isles then? but. Kallis says that each local university can make individual agreements with an equivalent in Great Britain. Credit courses participating in Great Britain should also not be a problem: there are currently no indications that the United Kingdom is also withdrawing from the Bologna process and thus from the general system for attributing study achievements.

Who pays the higher tuition fees?

But: the exit from Erasmus + lacks a structured framework for university collaboration. “One of the biggest hurdles will be the subject of fees,” Kallis says. Tuition fees in Great Britain are much higher than those in Austria: On average, a graduate student in the United Kingdom pays the equivalent of approximately 6500 to 10,500 euros per academic year. “The question will be how many foreign students will actually be taken to British universities for free.” A logic exchange can occur: If a British university wants to enable its students to spend a semester abroad in Vienna or Salzburg, they have to be prepared to enter cooperation.

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Erasmus + offers options

There have also been positive signs from the UK. Ambassador Leah Turner said that EU students are still “very welcoming”. And he says: “In Britain, about 21 percent of students come from overseas.” However, there will also be options from Erasmus +. OEAD managing director Kallis says that anyone who has chosen Great Britain to improve their English can choose Scandinavian countries that are strongly English-speaking or Ireland. But: “I think Ireland will not be able to take all those who moved to Britain.” This is one reason why Kallis would like to consider Great Britain “as a partner country in the medium term, at least in Erasma +.”

Wales and Scotland want to keep Erasmus +

A few days ago, more than 140 EU MPs sent a positive signal. In an open letter, he advocated that at least Scotland and Wales should retain Erasmus +. “Every youth in Europe should have a chance to participate in an exchange program,” said Gerry deputy chairman Terry Rintke in the EU parliament. With Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, MPs open doors. The politician described Erasmus’ exit as “cultural vandalism”. And he promised to explore “alternative options”.


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