Founded in the late 1980s, and now operating over 5000 higher education institutions across 37 different countries, the Erasmus Exchange Programme is a means to provide young people with the opportunity to experience a global education that is vitally important in today’s interconnected world.
The Erasmus programme allows students currently in EU member state universities to spend a period of time studying in another EU university. In other words, it is the mechanism by which UK students are able to study abroad within Europe and is an essential component of degrees such as Modern Foreign Languages. According to the BBC, out of all the UK students who study abroad, 53% of students do so through Erasmus.
It is a scheme filled with opportunity. Students are enabled to travel to monumental landmarks, make friends from all over the world, and develop excellent language skills by immersing themselves in the unique culture of another nation. For many, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. But it is an opportunity that is fundamentally contingent upon the UK’s current presence in the EU.
So what does Brexit mean for the Erasmus programme?
With the uncertainty of the exact deal under which the UK will leave the European Union, there is understandably great confusion over whether this highly successful programme will be able to continue as it did before. If the Government leaves with a deal then some arrangement with Erasmus will be negotiated.
The British Government, understanding of the importance of this programme, is working hard to ensure that Erasmus does not sever its ties with the UK after our exit. It is important to note that non-EU members are currently part of Erasmus, so Brexit does not mean that we would have to leave the programme. In the worst case scenario, if the government does not secure the
continuation of Erasmus for UK nationals, then individual bilateral agreements will be made to create
new exchange programmes.
With regards to funding, the Government has ensured that those currently in Europe as part of this year’s Erasmus cohort (2018-19) will continue to be funded. For subsequent years universities such as Durham have alerted that funding for their year abroad may be taken away and other universities are also displaying an uncertain attitude towards this area. Funding will have to be negotiated with the European Commission, and this can only happen once we leave the EU.
But, what if there is no deal?
Here the outcome is even more uncertain. According to the BBC, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal before exchanges for the next academic year have been finalised, then the British Government would need European agreement to continue taking part. A no-deal Brexit will mean that negotiations and solid policies will take longer to finalise, which would understandably have an impact on the 2019-20 cohort wishing to study/work abroad.
Whilst this can be frustrating for students planning their year/semester abroad that the exact policies are still not concrete, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have outlined some precautions that you should take if you are planning to study and subsequently live in Europe for the academic year 2019-20 to minimise the negative impact of any uncertainty with the future of Erasmus.
Leaving the EU means rules change. It is important to check directly with the FCO on the implications for your specific country.
Ensure that you have proper travel and health insurance. Health insurance is not something that many UK nationals think about when going abroad due to the presence of our wonderful NHS. However, when we leave the EU our European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) may not be valid anymore.
In order to drive abroad you will need new documentation.
Mobile phone operators may no longer provide free roaming in the EU, so look to getting a local sim.
So, does Brexit mean the end of our beloved Erasmus programme? Not necessarily. Traveling, living, and studying in Europe will continue in one form or other. However, only time will tell what the exact implications for this programme.