Will disadvantaged young people miss out again as the Turing programme replaces Erasmus?
Drowned out by the noise of Brexit and the pandemic, the government’s broken promise to remain a member of Erasmus has been largely overlooked. The failure to reach an agreement regarding its membership to said programmes post-Brexit, continues to have a devastating impact on young people.
Previously, Erasmus offered placements for young people, their teaching staff and youth workers alike, to travel, gain new skills, gain vital experiences and boost their employability (Erasmus+: Youth in Action: Opportunities for the Western Balkan region, 2018); (Afflick, 2021). The Erasmus Impact Study (2014) – the largest of its kind, involving nearly 80,000 respondents including both students and businesses found ‘graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market. They are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad and, five years after graduation, their unemployment rate is 23% lower’ (Erasmus Impact Study: key findings — EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics, 2014).
More meaningful is the missed opportunity of youth exchanges; Erasmus plus: Youth in Action permitted ‘groups of young people from different countries to meet, live together and work on shared projects’ (Youth exchanges, n.d.) outside of a school environment (Statement on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps | CILL, 2021). Youth in Action programmes provided opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to go abroad and gain vital experiences and permitted young people from other countries similar experiences in the UK.
For example, Ibrahim and Ibrahim – two 18 year olds from London describe their time on the ‘Find Yourself’ programme, in the remote village of Zapotok, Slovenia as “beautiful” because they enjoy integrating with and learning from different cultures (M and K, 2019). When asked about the most meaningful connections they established during the trip, they spoke about two Palestinian brothers who they very quickly formed a friendship with. They also described being outside of their comfort zone, the fresh air and breathtaking views of Slovenia as “one of the best experiences ever” (M and K, 2019). Arguably, they did find themselves on the trip as Ibrahim K reports “ I got an idea of who I want to be, what I want to do” (M and K, 2019). He also states that “since I came here, I’ve been realising that a lot of the habits I had back home were bad. Now, being in the middle of a forest, I reached the mentality that it’s not impossible to stop. I think I became a little bit stronger, mentally” (M and K, 2019).
Quantitative data also encapsulates Erasmus plus’ principles of inclusion, mutual benefit and intercultural learning. Reflected in the Comparative Research Report 2014-2020, research explores the effects and outcomes of the Youth in Action Programme for the period 2014-2020.
- 96% of responding project participants improved their ability to get along with people who have a different cultural background, and 90% their ability to achieve something in the interest of the community (Effects and Outcomes of Erasmus+ Youth in Action between 2014-2020 | RAY, 2022).
- 37% of respondents report that they actually became more active as citizens as a result of their participation in the programme, compared to their engagement before the project (Effects and Outcomes of Erasmus+ Youth in Action between 2014-2020 | RAY, 2022).
- Youth workers and youth leaders report that they learned better how to foster participation of young people in the preparation and implementation of (youth) projects (between 82% and 94%) (Effects and Outcomes of Erasmus+ Youth in Action between 2014-2020 | RAY, 2022).
In its place, the government has implemented the Turing Programme which despite its global outreach, ultimately falls short of the mark. According to the previous Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, “we now have the chance to expand opportunities to study abroad and see more students from all backgrounds benefit from the experience” (Department for Education and Williamson, 2020). However the key message here is embedded within ‘students’ as the Turing programme only applies to universities, colleges and schools (Statement on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps | CILL, 2021). ‘There is no provision for non-formal education, youth, sport, lifelong learning or volunteering. To a significant extent, disadvantaged young people will be excluded from the scheme. It will also be a one-way programme, for UK students to study in other countries. It does not offer any reciprocal opportunities for young people to come to the UK or the lasting mutual benefit which arises from this’ (Statement on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps | CILL, 2021). Therefore, it fails to be as inclusive as its predecessor and the number of young people eligible for placements are limited.
Critics also claim that the programme has ‘been conceived hastily and with minimal consultation’ (Statement on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps | CILL, 2021). The British Youth Council are calling on the government to announce plans about how they are going to address the €1 billion loss of funding since leaving the EU (Afflick, 2021). Both the ‘UK Youth Parliament and UK Young Ambassadors, which are coordinated by the British Youth Council, have received significant funding and support from the European programme’ (Afflick, 2021). Around 4,800 other UK projects will face similar funding challenges (Afflick, 2021).
The Turing scheme also doesn’t account for tuition fees unlike its predecessor. There is no longer a financial incentive for other countries to send and receive students, and the prospects of having to potentially self fund and comply with new VISA requirements can be off putting for students abroad. Moreover, UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds are offered a ‘maximum of £490 per month towards living costs (currently worth around 573 euros compared to 540 euros under Erasmus+), alongside travel funding, and other forms of additional funding to offset the cost of passports, visas and insurance’ (Reuben and Kovacevic, 2021). However, it is unclear that this will match or exceed the price of tuition fees as fees vary depending on university and country. Therefore, a decline in reciprocity of numbers can be expected.
Furthermore, according to the Guardian the government has decided to outsource the administration of the Turing programme to Capita, as opposed to the British Council who previously administered the scheme as well as Erasmus (Adams, 2021). Matt Western, the shadow universities minister, claims the Conservative party are risking selling students short considering the firm’s history of mismanaged contracts (Adams, 2021). He adds that since Boris Johnson broke his promise to retain UK membership of Erasmus, “ministers have cut corners, showing a lack of ambition to make study abroad a serious part of global Britain. Ministers must now guard against providers profiting off students’ aspirations.” (Adams, 2021).
The evidence speaks for itself, the Turing programme is not a suitable alternative to Erasmus. Erasmus programmes have an invaluable impact on the lives of young people across Europe, however Government officials have sheepishly promoted the Turing programme as a suitable alternative regardless of the ugly truth. The Turing programme is only applicable to those enrolled in education and therefore is not accessible to all young people, particularly those young people not in education, likely to be most disadvantaged and who need it most. Similarly, the Turing programme is delivered with a significant loss of funding and is less accommodating to international students and youth groups. Following a series of governmental U-turns, the Turing Programme should be considered for revision.
Author: Amy Hubber
Adams, R., 2021. Outsourcing Turing exchange scheme to Capita ‘risks selling students short’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/dec/09/outsourcing-turing-exchange-scheme-to-capita-is-selling-students-short>
Afflick, R., 2021. British Youth Council | News | British Youth Council calls on government to replace lost EU funding. [online] British Youth Council. Available at: <https://www.byc.org.uk/news/2021/british-youth-council-calls-on-government-to-replace-lost-eu-funding>
Cill-uk.com. 2021. Statement on Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps | CILL. [online] Available at: <https://cill-uk.com/2021/01/16/erasmusplus-esc/>
Eubusiness.com. 2014. Erasmus Impact Study: key findings — EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics. [online] Available at: <https://www.eubusiness.com/topics/education/erasmus-impact-14>
European Commission. n.d. Youth exchanges. [online] Available at: <https://erasmus-plus.ec.europa.eu/opportunities/individuals/youth-exchanges>
M, I. and K, I., 2019. Ibrahim in Ibrahim – Slovenska filantropija. [online] Filantropija.org. Available at: <https://www.filantropija.org/2019/10/18/ibrahim-in-ibrahim/>
RAY. 2022. Effects and Outcomes of Erasmus+ Youth in Action between 2014-2020 | RAY. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchyouth.net/news/new-effects-and-outcomes-of-erasmus-youth-in-action-between-2014-2020/>
Reuben, A. and Kovacevic, T., 2021. Turing Scheme: What is the Erasmus replacement?. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47293927>
Salto-youth.net. 2018. Erasmus+: Youth in Action: Opportunities for the Western Balkan region. [online] Available at: <https://www.salto-youth.net/downloads/4-17-3327/Salto%20brochure%20web%202018%20feb%20final.pdf>