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The Student takes on Turing: Erasmus’ new lukewarm successor

Obscured by all things pandemic, Boris Johnson’s “new dawn for Britain” and “oven-ready deal” were always bound to pass with less public attention than Brexiteers would have liked.


What did not pass without attention for many current and prospective students, however, was the end of UK participation in Erasmus+ and the announcement of Erasmus’ lukewarm successor, the Turing Scheme. Boasting a budget of £100 million for 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools, we have been encouraged to look at the government’s shiny new plan as yet another wondrous development in the journey towards Britain’s freedom.


Yet to most of us who study the Turing scheme in more detail, it brings about the same level of comfort as putting up a disco ball after someone’s taken a massive dump in the middle of a club. It distracts, granted, but it fails to solve or even acknowledge the problem.


At a baseline level, the issue that the abandonment of Erasmus raises is as follows. Universities both thrive and rely on mutual professional and cultural exchange. As institutions of learning they require as wide a net of expertise, experience and perspectives as possible and, within a European context, they have been operating in dialogue since around the fifteenth century.
The Erasmus+ scheme, which facilitates the mobility of students, teachers, lecturers, volunteers and youth workers across the education sector is therefore in deep accordance with university values and through its funding makes it easier for institutions to uphold these values. It is, moreover, international in character and equal in opportunity.
Providing €14.7 billion to over 4 million Europeans, it seeks to provide for all Europeans, not just certain state nationals. Turing on the contrary, is a return to national interests and to forgetting that European interests do not threaten national ones. Turing exists to aid UK organisations to fund UK students, in order to benefit UK employers. Collaboration, mutual aid and history be damned, a “newly and truly independent nation” has more important things to worry about.

Our university will, therefore, prove to be an interesting testing ground in the years to come. Currently, its 4,800 EU students are protected by current agreements and, equally, Erasmus+ funding remains available to Edinburgh students until May 2023. Where things will progress from there is unclear.


Since 2019, the University of Edinburgh is part of Una Europa, an alliance of eight European universities, and Peter Mathieson has declared the university’s intention to campaign for full association in the new Erasmus programme for 2021-2027.


Whether such collaboration between universities can continue in a post-Brexit Europe is down to how universities will respond to the end of Erasmus+ and how we as students will inform the discussion.

Image: Danielle de Jong via Flickr