Article by Professor Jim Murdoch CBE describes the problems of the demise of the Erasmus scheme for UK universities.
The article was published on The National by Managing Editor, Callum Baird.
To the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education
We, the undersigned, write to express our concerns at the withdrawal of the UK from the Erasmus+
programme. We urge the UK government to reconsider its position and to ensure that the Turing
scheme offers the same or increased global opportunities compared to the Erasmus+ programme.
The Erasmus+ programme offers unparalleled access to personal and professional development for
UK students, trainees, and organisations. According to the European Commission’s Factsheets on
UK participation, in 2019 alone, 54 619 participants in 684 UK projects benefited from Erasmus+
mobility in higher education, vocational education and training, school education, adult and youth
learning. This equated to a total UK grant of € 144.69 million. Whilst we write to you from the
perspective of UK Higher Education, the Factsheet makes clear that Erasmus+ has funded
educational and training projects across all education sectors. UK Higher Education makes up just
28.5% (195) of the 684 projects funded in 2019, followed, in order of grant receipt, by Schools
Education, Vocational Training and Education, Youth and Adult Education.
The Erasmus+ programme offers UK students, scholars, and educational professionals highly valued
global mobility opportunities with 190 countries, within and beyond the EU. The outward-bound
benefits of the programme are matched by the rich contribution of incoming Erasmus students to
our student communities. They are integral to the research vitality of our campuses in the arts,
humanities, and social sciences, as well as in science innovation, knowledge transfer and
partnership. This intangible cultural and intellectual benefit may not be measurable in direct
financial terms but the contribution of Erasmus+ students to the overall UK economy certainly is.
This is estimated at £243 million per annum by Universities UK International.
Whilst we have highlighted here national benefits, we would wish to focus on the real difference the
Erasmus+ scheme has made to individuals. Personal testimonies on social media and in the UK
press attest to the impact of Erasmus on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as
Hashid Mohamed, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/erasmus-was-no-gap-year-lark-it-was-mypassport-to-the-world-w7lnbq85d. It is this diversity and accessibility of funding for young people
from a range of backgrounds that must be sustained in future.
Should the UK government proceed to withdraw from membership of the Erasmus+ programme, we
would urge government colleagues to permit the devolved administrations to consider associate
membership and/or forms of sponsored participation as is likely to be the case for Higher Education
students in Northern Ireland.
Finally, we would urge the UK government to extend the scope and ambition of the Turing scheme
which is in preparation to replace the UK’s participation in Erasmus+. We are concerned that the
outline proposal, available on the UK government website, will not offer the same or increased
opportunities for study and work abroad for UK young people as has been pledged. We are
concerned on three fronts.
Firstly, reciprocity is not built into the current proposals. This will significantly inhibit UK sending
institutions from maintaining or building global opportunities. Lack of reciprocity may lead to many
partnerships being unviable, resulting in a lack of placement opportunities for our students abroad.
It is also administratively burdensome to facilitate different agreement types outside the standard
Erasmus+ template. Our universities, our society, and our economy all benefit from the presence of
Secondly, the scheme does not appear to support staff mobility, which is essential for building
partnership and trust and encouraging mobility from disadvantaged groups. The Turing Scheme
must include the equivalent of Erasmus+ ‘Organisational Support’ funding aimed at offsetting the
costs of administering the programme, such staffing costs to prepare students, promote the
programme and maintain partnerships. Inter-institutional agreements are complex and take time to
develop and mature; they also seed further opportunities.
Thirdly, it is most concerning that the Turing scheme is not being funded on a multi-annual basis.
An annual cycle of funding does not consider how universities recruit students to study and work
abroad. This happens at least a year in advance of a placement. Advertising funding is key to
encouraging students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to consider a placement
abroad. Uncertainty around funding for future years abroad will have an impact on recruitment to
modern language degrees disproportionately and undermine faith in the Turing scheme as a
recognised UK programme, worthy of investment from our partners.
As learned societies and organisations whose extensive experience confirms our deep belief in global
mobility for young people in the UK, we urge the UK government to work with us and others in the
education and training sector as a community to retain Erasmus+ or to provide a truly exceptional
equivalent. We would be happy to meet with the Minister and/or his colleagues to discuss and
review potential ways forward.
Professor Claire Gorrara, Chair, University Council of Modern Languages (UCML)
Professors Susan Bruce and Martin Halliwell, Co-Chairs, Arts & Humanities Alliance (AHA)
Dr Martin Howard, President, and Dr Emmanuelle Labeau, Vice-President UK Affairs, Association for
French Language Studies (AFLS)
Professor Nicola McLelland, President, Association for German Studies (AGS)
Professor Kim Bower, President, and Professor René Koglbauer-Franklin, Chair of Management
Board, Association for Language Learning (ALL)
Dr Christine Sas, Chair, Association for Low Countries in the UK and Ireland (ALCS)
Professor Chris Tinker, President, Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France
Professor Philip Cooke, Chair, Association for the Study of Modern Italy (ASMI)
Professor Claire Taylor, President, Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (AHGBI)
Professor Stephanie Dennison, President, Association of Lusitanists of Britain and Ireland (ABIL)
Caroline Strevens, Chair, Association of Law Teachers (ALT)
Dr Jean Christophe Penet, Chair, Association of Programmes in Translation and Interpreting Studies
Professor Simone Abram, Chair, Association of Social Anthropologists UK (ASA)
Raisa McNab, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Translation Companies (ATC)
Mark Critchley, Association of University Language Communities in the UK and Ireland (AULC)
Professor Marion Schmid, President, Association of University Professors and Heads of French+
Dr Dawn Knight, Chair, British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL)
Professor Rachel Murphy, President, British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS)
Dr Christopher Hood, President, British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS)
Dr Charlotte Horlyck, President, British Association for Korean Studies (BAKS)
Dr Matthias Neumann, President, British Association for Slavonic & Eastern European Studies
Professor Jane Stuart-Smith, President, British Association of Academic Phoneticians (BAAP)
Ian Potter, Chair, British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS)
Professor Dominic Wyse, President, British Educational Research Association (BERA)
Professor Shirley Jordan and Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex, Co-Directors, Centre for the Study of
Contemporary Women’s Writing (CCWW)
Dr Joseph Ford, Director, Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (CCM)
Dr Craig Moyes, Director, Centre for Quebec and French-Canadian Studies (CQFCS)
Dr Liz Price, Chair, Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences (CHES)
Rob Penman, Chair, The English Association (EA)
Dr Johan Siebers, Director, Ernst Bloch Centre for German Thought
Davina Marie, Chair, Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association (ISMLA)
Dr Andrea Capovilla, Director, Ingeborg Bachmann Centre for Austrian Literature & Culture (IBC)
Professor Charles Burdett, Director, Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR)
Paul Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)
Dr Nicola Bermingham, President, International Association for the Study of Spanish in Society (SIS)
Professor Hywel Thomas, CBE FRENG MAE FLSW FRS, President, Learned Society of Wales (LSW)
Professor Caroline Heycock, President, Linguistics Association of Great Britain & Northern Ireland
Dr Barbara Burns, Chair, Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA)
Professor Susan Fitzmaurice, President, Philological Society (PhilSoc)
Professor Anthony Grenville, Director, Research Centre for Austrian and German Exile Studies (EXILE)
Professor Alison Blunt, Professor Stephen Darby, Professor Peter Kraftl, Research & Higher Education
Committee, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (RGS)
Professor Michael Syrotinski, President, and Professor Judith Still, Vice-President, Society for French
Professor Simon Gilson, Chair, Society for Italian Studies (SIS)
Professor Patience Schell, President, Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS)
Professor David Andress, President, Society for the Study of French History (SSFH)
Professor Lesley Jeffries, Chair, University Council of General and Applied Linguistics (UCGAL)
Professor Lynda Taylor, President, UK Association for Language Testing and Assessment (UKALTA)
Professor Alan Hallsworth, President, and Professor Tony Chafer, Vice-President, UK Council of Area
Studies Associations (UKCASA)
Dr Mercedes Carbayo Abengózar, President, Women in Spanish and Portuguese Studies (WISPS)