Bye Erasmus, hello Turing: Britain's one-way exchange programme hard to crack


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British student Jewell enjoyed exploring the Amalfi coast in Italy during the Erasmus programme, which has now ended following Britain's departure from the European Union. Photos: dpa

One of the European Union's most visible successes is arguably the Erasmus Programme, allowing university students to go to school in another country and immerse themselves in that culture.

Take Max Hogrebe, for example. The 29-year-old German medical student had decided to do a semester in Wales, but didn't have any big expectations.

"I got hooked," he recalls. "I would almost say that it's something that everyone needs to have done," he adds.

Isabella Jewell, who recently studied in France and Italy before heading back to school in Manchester, is also a convert: She says she never could have learned French and Italian as well in the classroom.

There are hundreds of thousands of such Erasmus success stories. But now, for tens of thousands of Britons who used to spend a semester abroad, or in reverse, other Europeans who flocked to Britain's famous universities and drank in its famous culture, it's over.

German student Hogrebe says he regrets Britain's exit from the Erasmus programme.German student Hogrebe says he regrets Britain's exit from the Erasmus programme.Brexit brought an end to Britain being a part of Erasmus. Future Britons will be able to study abroad through the replacement Turing Programme, named after the World War II British Enigma code cracker Alan Turing. A caveat, however: Turing only works in one direction.

"Students will have the opportunity not just to go to European universities but to go to the best universities in the world," according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

About £100mil (RM557mil) will flow into the programme in its first year. British students can apply for funding – but those from the European Union are not eligible for a cent of it.

Geographer David Simon of the Royal Holloway University of London says that it's not a real substitute, in that case, adding that such reciprocal exchanges were a way to express the European spirit.

In this respect, perhaps it's not surprising that the government opted to replace Erasmus with a programme that's more one-sided.

Political professor James Sloam, from the same university, believes that there's an ideological presumption that Erasmus produces pro-European young people – not something that benefits Britain so shortly after it left the EU, in conservative Brexiteers' views.

Historian Richard Toye of the University of Exeter mourns for a whole generation of students who he says have lost opportunities and face much uncertainty, and he criticises the new replacement programme as initially sounding as if it were drafted on the back of an envelope.

In Jewell's view, there will likely be more competition for the new programme's limited spaces, which could mean that disadvantaged applicants in particular could lose out on such opportunities.

It's incredibly important, Jewell adds, that university students who are studying a foreign language in particular have a chance to live abroad and use it in their everyday lives. There's already a big problem with language teachers in Britain anyway, she says.

The number of participants who came to Britain to study was for a long time much higher than the other way around. In 2019, some 18,000 Britons went to an EU country under Erasmus to study or intern abroad. For comparison, more than 30,000 people came the other way.

As is often the case, things are a little different in the north, far outside London: Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon called Britain's exit from Erasmus as "cultural vandalism" and said that if she had her way, Scotland would quickly be back in the Erasmus Programme.

Hogrebe, a self-described "anglophile", says he regrets Britain's exit from the programme. European students can luckily still have Erasmus Programme experiences, he says, just in a different country.

"A lot of what Erasmus is about remains for other countries," he says. British students can't say the same – for them, the 27 Erasmus destinations are directly eliminated, with all eyes now on Turing. – dpa

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education , Brexit , Turing , Erasmus

   

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