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Tories threat to Erasmus student exchange scheme

By Isabella Ruffatti Jan 22, 2020
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister Questions at the House of Commons. Credit: UK parliament handout, Jessica Taylor

KU students are worried for their Erasmus exchange scheme after MPs vote against a clause that would have required the Government to negotiate continuing its full membership of the Erasmus programme post-Brexit.
Had the clause been passed, the Government would have been required by law to make staying part of the Erasmus scheme a priority in Brexit negotiations.

Psychology student Danna Richards said: “I think it’s quite sickening that the government would ever consider not continuing Erasmus.”

Danna Richards. Credit: Danna Richards

The 23-year-old described her year abroad in the Republic of Cyprus as the most “fulfilling” experience she had ever had.

“It taught me attitudes and skills that will be essential for my career path. I have developed the ability to understand different characters at the same time as learning about new cultures.

“If they were to stop Erasmus, I think they would not only be inhibiting the full development of the generation to come, but also impacting their own development as a country. Stopping Erasmus would be like reversing our country’s development.”

The Erasmus scheme is a study abroad exchange programme with the European Union (EU).

The exchange scheme is also involved in vocational training and overseas employment.

Both students from home universities, and EU ones, are eligible for the exchange.

The vote on January 8 was on a Liberal Democrats-backed withdrawal agreement bill and its defeat by Conservative MPs raised fears that the UK would no longer participate in the programme.

However, a spokesperson for the Department for Education told The Guardian that the Government would continue to be committed to Erasmus+despite the vote.

French Erasmus student Lilian Boucher was sad to see the UK parliament vote for laws “in favour of going back to tradition”.

The 20-year-old has been studying at KU since December.

“The University is great, and I made good friends, so I like it a lot,” he said.

The biological sciences student is also worried that France will follow the UK in voting Conservative and said he would feel guilty if his country expelled people for their origins or beliefs.

A Kingston University spokesperson told The River: “The current Erasmus programme runs until 2021. Kingston University students applying for a grant for the next academic year will continue to receive funding.

“The Government has confirmed it is still open to participation in the programme and the University backs national sector body Universities UK’s Support Study Abroad campaign calling on the government to commit to continue funding study abroad opportunities for students from the UK.”

The University said it would continue to “champion the importance of attracting international students and ensuring the United Kingdom remains a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds.”

The UK has now left the EU on January 31. A transition period will be allowed until the end of the year, where programmes such as the Erasmus scheme will continue to run.

A KU spokesperson said: “The Erasmus exchange programme provides an invaluable opportunity for Kingston University students to enhance their learning in another country, where they can explore a different way of life, find out more about other cultures, develop language skills and enhance their future employability by developing a broader global outlook.

“Exchange students from other European countries coming to study at Kingston as part of the scheme contribute to the rich and diverse learning environment on campus.”

By Isabella Ruffatti

Picture/Visual Editor and reporter at The River.

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