the real reason why the UK left the exchange program – L’Express

the real reason why the UK left the exchange program

“Do you speak French, Spanish or Dutch?” When asked these questions, the British students stuttered a little too much. This is why the United Kingdom decided to leave, on January 1, 2021, the Erasmus+ exchange program of the European Union. Indeed, the poor foreign language skills of the British made membership too costly to maintain…

“I’ll tell you why we don’t want to be part of it anymore: it’s because there has always been an imbalance between our inability to speak languages ​​very well – and therefore to take advantage of outward mobility opportunities – and people wishing to come to the United Kingdom”, justified, Wednesday April 3, Nick Leake, a seasoned diplomat who represented the British government at a meeting of the European Economic and Social Committee (CESE).

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In other words, London wanted to avoid wasting money on its poor language students. Because you should know that the reciprocal nature of Erasmus + ignores the differences in fees between universities, which made the prospect of studying in the United Kingdom – where schools are more expensive – more attractive for foreign students. The lower participation in Erasmus by British students compared to other nationalities meant that London would pay out, per year, almost 300 million euros more than what it received in return.

“2 billion euros more”

Continued participation in Erasmus during the Brexit negotiations “would have required the UK to pay €2 billion more than we would have received over a seven-year programme”, according to Nick Leake. Hence the decision to wipe Erasmus + off the map. Except that not everyone agrees with this resolution: Maurizio Cuttin, ambassador of the British Youth Council to the European Youth Forum, told Politico, after the meeting on April 3, that the UK’s exit from Erasmus + “has led to a devastating loss of exchange and education opportunities for young people on both sides of the Channel”.

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Under the Erasmus+ system, 200,000 British nationals have been able to study at universities across Europe at no extra cost. Disadvantaged students were also eligible for grants of up to 630 pounds sterling (around 730 euros) per month. Still on the European side, Jan Hendrik Dopheide, a senior Brussels official working on relations with the United Kingdom, added that he was discussing with member states how to proceed on the issue of youth mobility in general. “We can probably do a lot more to facilitate the movement of young people in different circumstances,” he announced.

Turing, the replacement for Erasmus +, deemed inadequate

After slamming the door on Erasmus +, the United Kingdom created its own study abroad program: Turing, named after the famous British mathematician. For the 2021-2022 academic year, this initiative launched by Boris Johnson was to finance 40,000 global mobility places in 150 countries, but the number of participants in the first year was only just over 20,000, in partly because of Covid. Note that France is the preferred European destination for higher education students, with 2,894 British students in 2021-2022.

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But a recent study commissioned in January 2024 by the British government revealed that the Turing replacement program had not yet achieved its objectives. Nearly 80% of universities and colleges affiliated with the program reported difficulties with the new application process. Less than half (45%) of higher education providers rated it satisfactory, and almost a third (31%) rated it unsatisfactory.

Indeed, many students consider the Erasmus replacement program to be inadequate. The report, which focused on the first year, also noted that delivery issues particularly impacted students from disadvantaged backgrounds, potentially creating barriers to their participation. From there to re-enter Erasmus in the United Kingdom? The Labor Party has not yet committed to the subject, but the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is working on the matter. As part of his candidacy for a third term, next May, he intends to offer students in the capital a new version of the European program. The opportunity for young English people to work a little more on their weak point.