Policy passed at NUS Scotland conference 2021.
What is the issue facing students?
The Erasmus+ programme provides opportunities for students in Scotland to study, train, and work in 34 European Union and associated countries, which are full participants in the programme, and up to 156 countries elsewhere in the world.
In December 2020, the then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the UK will no longer participate in the Erasmus+ programme, despite stating in January 2020 that there was ‘no threat to the Erasmus+ scheme’.
A report from the House of Lords EU committee warned that the benefits of the Erasmus+ programme would be difficult to match with the proposed Turing scheme by the UK government.
Erasmus+ is an integral part of language degrees in the Scotland and across the UK and contributes heavily to the promotion of languages in our education institutions – more than half (53 per cent) of UK-domiciled students who study abroad do so through Erasmus+.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
NUS Scotland believes in a transformational educational experience that provides opportunities for all, regardless of background or identity.
More than 2,000 students and staff from Scotland use the Erasmus+ exchange programme each year.
Scotland proportionally sent more students and attracted more Erasmus participants from Europe than any other country in the UK.
Over its lifetime of 30 years, Erasmus – which in 2014 evolved into Erasmus+ – has made learning mobility easy, invented patterns of educational cooperation and extended its approach into sport and the youth area. It delivers economies of scale for Erasmus mobility grants, joint master degrees, cooperation projects including capacity building in knowledge alliances with business, collaborative partnerships in the field of sport and policy reform with a focus on youth.
The House of Lords EU committee report noted that leaving Erasmus+ would "disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities".
A students educational experience is transformed by the international outlooks of their EU domicile peers.
Universities are key to ensuring we have a successful post-Brexit UK economy and diverse, multicultural and international society. Universities may not be able to depend on the support from the government to ensure that they can thrive.
In December 2020 the Prime Minister announced that the UK would no longer participate in Erasmus+ and would develop its own replacement programme – the Turing Scheme.
Many members of the Scottish and UK Parliaments have spoken out against this decision by the Prime Minister, called the Turing Scheme “unacceptable” and “watered down”.
The lack of information available on what the Turing Scheme looks like or involves demonstrates the lack of consideration for students in the negotiation of the Brexit deal, and is yet another source of national embarrassment throughout the Brexit process. It is clearly evidenced that this is a huge loss to students, which effects our future workforce, and something must be done to rectify this.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously described the decision to leave Erasmus as "cultural vandalism", while former prime minister Gordon Brown also called for the UK to remain part of the scheme.
On 31st January 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union; Students and young people overwhelmingly voted Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum and have consistently voted for pro-EU and pro-second referendum parties in the two successive elections following the referendum.
Students and young people are supportive in their majority of a close relationship with Europe and the European Union.
What would the world look like if we solved it?
A progress future is built on cooperation with our closest neighbours and allies.
The events of recent years have represented a profound detachment from what we collectively regard as the United Kingdom’s righteous future within a free and prosperous European Union.
Maintaining our membership of the Erasmus+ programme is key to a cooperative and accessible educational experience.
If continued Erasmus+ membership cannot be secured, the Scottish and UK Governments should negotiate a better deal for students, so that more funded opportunities to study abroad are available at the same level of teaching quality that was present under Erasmus+.