platform magazine erasmus

The Brexit Effect: How will Erasmus cope?

It has been almost three years since the British population voted in favour of leaving the European Union, but now a no-deal Brexit threatens to damage our opportunities at university, primarily for those who want to study abroad.

Back in 2016, the British population voted in favour of Brexit, by a 3.8% majority, and it was no shock that the younger generations, aged between 18 and 24, voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the European Union (80%).

As a result, there is a lot of uncertainty that surrounds the British society, including what will happen to the Erasmus scheme.

The Erasmus programme is a scheme that operates within the European Union and allows students from universities in EU member states to study and work abroad for a set period of time, improving their opportunities after university, as well as expanding their language skills and cultural awareness.

As the world’s most successful student mobility scheme, since its creation in 1987, over three million students have benefitted from the programme.

The benefits of the Erasmus scheme are endless, but thanks to the uncertainty that Brexit holds, the scheme and the future of prospective Erasmus students seems to be under threat.

Without the Erasmus programme, it is possible that the funding given to students who study abroad will be stopped or withdrawn, meaning students might not be able to afford to complete their semester or year in a foreign country.

Whilst alternatives have been discussed, for example the UK setting up an equivalent programme or continuing to be a part of the scheme as an “associated third country”, it is unsure whether these would have the same positive effects as the current mobility programme that Erasmus offers.

On the 19th March of this year, Parliament adopted a regulation that would protect current students using the Erasmus programme to study in the UK or in other EU member states in the event that we leave the European Union without a deal.

However, this regulation could not be guaranteed for students looking to study after the UK’s departure date, threatening prospective Erasmus students for academic year 2019/2020 and further.

The government will need to renegotiate with the European Commission to establish an agreement for the 2019/2020 programme, however, these negotiations cannot take place until after the UK’s departure.

Furthermore, if Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement is passed by Parliament, the UK’s transition period from the European Union will last until at least 2020, protecting the funding for all possible Erasmus students up until this time, at which point renegotiations will take place.

Not only does the Erasmus programme provide university students with the opportunity to study or work abroad, but this experience can expand a student’s knowledge and skills beyond their belief.

Frankie, 21, who is currently an Erasmus student from Nottingham Trent University studying in Spain, said: “There are plenty of positives of doing a year abroad, especially linguistically.

“It [the year abroad] definitely helps you to improve those skills”.

However, current Nottingham Trent student Paulina, who is looking to travel abroad with Erasmus in the next academic year, stated that she is “a bit worried about how Brexit will affect the year abroad [because] I am really excited about the study abroad experience and I think that it’s a great experience for students.

“If Brexit is going to make it impossible or harder for students to do it, then it will be a shame.”

As a current Erasmus student myself studying in Spain, the Erasmus scheme has provided me with the opportunity to travel and develop in a multitude of ways, allowing me to expand my cultural and linguistic knowledge, as well as develop personally, and I can only hope that this opportunity won’t be taken away from those who want to participate.

By Faith Pring

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