On Wednesday 8 January, MPs voted down an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20. The amendment was tabled by Liberal Democrat MPs and sought to mandate the Government “to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education and youth programme” after the Brexit Implementation/Transition Period ends on 31 December 2020.
If passed, the amendment would have required the Government to prioritise the ongoing participation of the UK in Erasmus+ in the next phase of Brexit negotiations.
Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme for education, training, youth and sport. Launched in 2014, Erasmus+ combines all of the EU’s previous schemes for education, training, youth and sport, including the Erasmus student exchange programme.
The Erasmus programme provides opportunities for students to study abroad at participating universities in EU countries. Study abroad periods range from 3 to 12 months and participating students can count the academic credit that they earn abroad towards their home qualification. Between 1987 and 2014, the Erasmus programme supported 3.3 million students to study abroad.
Does this mean that the UK is quitting Erasmus+?
Not necessarily. Following the vote, Chris Skidmore, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, tweeted:
“Last night’s vote […] does not end or prevent the UK participating in Erasmus+ after leaving the EU. We remain open to participation and this will be part of future negotiations with the EU- we highly value international student exchanges.”
In addition, a Department for Education spokesperson recently told Channel 4 that:
“As we enter negotiations with the EU, we want to ensure that UK and European students can continue to benefit from each other’s world-leading education systems.”
However, the Department for Education has confirmed that it is considering plans for a replacement exchange scheme should the UK fail to secure continuing participation in Erasmus+ in the next phase of Brexit negotiations. In September 2019, Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said:
“[The Department for Education] is open to continuing to be part of schemes like Erasmus+. But we have to prepare for every eventuality and it is sensible to consider all options. As such I have asked my officials to provide a truly ambitious scheme if necessary.”
At this stage, the Government has not provided any further details as to how a replacement scheme might differ from the opportunities provided by Erasmus+.
What does this mean for me?
The University has a Brexit and Erasmus+ updates page on its website which outlines potential implications for Newcastle students on exchange in 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.
If you have a question about studying abroad you can also contact your School Exchange Coordinator or firstname.lastname@example.org.