The £100million Turing Scheme has been touted as a replacement for and extension of the EU’s Erasmus programme, which the UK withdrew from after Brexit.
In December 2020, 11 months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had told Parliament that there was ‘no threat’ to the scheme and that British students would continue to participate in it, the UK government announced the launch of its own international study programme, which it says will allow students to study in 150 countries.
— Jon Stone (@joncstone) December 25, 2020
In August, the British government trumpeted the fact that an estimated 40,000 students will study and work abroad from this September thanks to the new scheme. A later funding announcement revealed that 40,032 students would be taking part in 363 Turing Scheme projects in this first year.
According to the Turing Scheme’s website, France is the most popular choice for study among UK students. It quoted a figure of 1,150 British students coming to study and work here in 2021, ahead of Spain (883), China (518), Germany (260) and USA (250). The list features 46 international destinations, with Vietnam and Turkey among a clutch of nations receiving 10 students at the foot of the table.
A House of Commons briefing paper revealed that, in 2018, 2,049 UK students travelled to France under the Erasmus scheme, while 2,220 headed to Spain, 1,302 to Germany and 711 to Italy. Overall, UK Erasmus students went to 59 different host countries in 2017/18 including 25 that were outside Europe in 2018. From 2021, Erasmus opened up to allow global study.
Contacted by The Local, the Department of Education (DoE) suggested the number of students studying in France under Turing could reach closer to 3,000 than the 1,150 listed on the Turing Scheme website.
However it was unable to confirm how many students are definitely going and whether all have successfully applied for visas.
According to reports thousands of British students are struggling to complete their language courses or take up internships in the EU because of visa hold-ups. Students hoping to head to Spain were the worst affected, The Guardian has said – though some students heading to France and other European nations have also reported problems with the visa process.
British students studying in the EU now need a visa, since they are no longer covered by EU freedom of movement.
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The DoE told The Local that it was aware of the problem and that the Foreign Office was involved and speaking to representatives in affected nations. It also said that the Turing scheme offers financial help for those who need visas.
The DoE was unable to confirm which French or other European institutions are taking part in the scheme, as UK-based universities were expected to develop their own contacts and use existing relations – some forged through Erasmus – with educational establishments across the world to develop their programmes.
UK Education Minister Gavin Williamson said: “The chance to work and learn in a country far from home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – which broadens minds, sharpens skills and improves outcomes.
“But until now it has been an opportunity disproportionately enjoyed by those from the most privileged backgrounds. The Turing Scheme has welcomed a breadth of successful applications from schools and colleges across the country, reflecting our determination that the benefits of Global Britain are shared by all.
“By strengthening our partnerships with the finest institutions across the globe, the Turing Scheme delivers on the Government’s post-Brexit vision, and helps a new generation grasp opportunities beyond Europe’s borders.”
More than 120 universities, as well as schools and further education colleges across the UK, have been awarded grants of nearly £100 million, at current exchange rates less than the €145 million awarded for UK students in 2017.