First UK students on Turing scheme head to France

The first UK Turing Scheme students are expected to take up their work and study placements in France later this month - but it's still not certain how many will be able to come.

First UK students on Turing scheme head to France
Photo: Jerry Lampen / ANP / AFP

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.

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.

READ ALSO How to apply for a French visa

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.

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‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres


Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said.