THE BLOG

RIP Erasmus+?

27/09/2016 12:31

I have tried to restrain thus far from writing about Brexit because, well, everybody else has been writing about it. Young students and recent graduates writing about the evils of Brexit has, it seems, become this summer's most basic fad.

All joking aside, though I am sure that the British public has had enough of young, wannabe writers publishing heart-felt, farewell soliloquies (we can place them in the doghouse alongside Gove's damned 'experts'), my tune has changed because I finally now have something insightful to highlight.

Brexit happened three days after I completed my year abroad. As a French language student, it was mandatory that I spent at least 9 months over my third year in a French-speaking country. My cohorts and I were given three options as how to spend the year, we could either work as a teaching assistant abroad with the British Council, find our own work placement or study abroad.

The Erasmus+ programme is the European Commission's programme for education, training, youth and sport. Securing funding for students on work placements across Europe, offering funding to those who study abroad and, through the Erasmus Student Mobility for Studies programme, ensuring European university exchanges, it is through the Erasmus+ programme that the majority of students conduct their year abroad.

Leaving the EU, however, has put all of this up in the air, which is rather worrying when obtaining your degree depends on your spending time either studying or working abroad, and most options where to do so are EU countries.

Easmus+ Scheme's UK director, Ruth Sinclair-Jones, has already come out saying that the UK's inclusion in the scheme could not be guaranteed beyond 2017.

Brexit, of course, doesn't have to put a total stop to all this. We could choose the enlightened path and continue to stay a part of the Erasmus+ programme.

Norway isn't a member of the EU, but as it participates in the free movement of people, and is signed up to all EU regulations significant to the Erasmus+ programme, it therefore participates in Erasmus+ without any problems.

There is another alternative still, Switzerland, where I spent my year abroad, studying at the University of Geneva, isn't a member of the EU either. Nevertheless, as a participating partner under Erasmus+, the Swiss are still engaged opting for their own Swiss-European Mobility Programme instead, which perfectly mirrors the Erasmus+ programme.

However, receiving no funding from the EU, this programme is expensive for the Swiss government which has to pick up the shortfall, somewhat more viable though for a country that has under 10 million inhabitants.

Forgive me for being sceptical, but I don't have much faith that the political party which tripled tuition fees, axed EMA and phased out maintenance grants for the poorest students will stay committed to Erasmus+. Bluntly speaking, the three Brexiteer, dumpy chumps aren't going to be thinking of students during their post-Brexit negotiations.

There is also another side to Brexit's long dark shadow over British students' years abroad. In terms of the practicalities of living, working and studying abroad, it really helps to be a European Citizen.

As part of EU agreements, all EU citizens have the right to live in other EU countries under the same conditions as nationals. For example, our EHIC cards entitle us to the free and subsidised healthcare that each member state accords to their own citizens, and we have the legal right to work across EU member states. Both of these are vital lifelines for many students, particularly poorer ones, who can't afford fancy insurance schemes and have to work over term time to support themselves.

We don't know what Brexit means yet, but if Brexit truly means Brexit then poorer pupils' chances to spend time abroad will be decimated, potentially, therefore, pricing them out of doing languages degrees.

Which, at a time when our lack of language skills is estimated to cost our economy in the region of £48bn a year, simply is not good enough.

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