Manchester students have raised concerns over the embattled Erasmus programme as the UK prepares to leave the European Union at the end of the month.
Several undergraduates expressed doubts over the government’s commitment to the scheme – after MP’s shot down a motion that would have made it a priority in the post-Brexit negotiations.
The EU-funded exchange programme allows British students to gain international experience for up to 12 months. More than half of UK students who study abroad do so through the scheme and receive a grant to help with living costs.
The government insists it will continue with ‘full participation’ of the programme until the end of the 2020 EU budget period but it’s currently unclear what happens after this.
Several students said they had already missed out on funding due to Brexit uncertainty and some expressed worries about their impending placements.
Richard, a second-year studying Politics and Modern History, who is about to start a placement in the Netherlands, said he was anxious about receiving his grant.
He told The Mancunion: “I don’t believe my placement will be cancelled at this late stage but I do worry for receiving the Erasmus+ grant which will be vital to me being able to afford the cost of living there.”
The University said that the current round of Erasmus funding is still in place and that there is no reason why students should miss out on Erasmus opportunities in the coming academic year.
Bella, a third-year studying French and Italian and currently on the Erasmus scheme said that without the grant her living costs would be substantially more.
Working in Nantes as a radio presenter, she said it was “tragic” that other students might not get the opportunity to work and study abroad:
“The scheme has massively improved my language skills, beyond my expectations. To deny students this opportunity will deny the job market of those with language competences. Britain is already seeing a reduction in language teachers, this will only make matters worse and cut ourselves off as a country.”
Liv, a journalist and recent Manchester graduate echoed this: “It’s such a shame to lose something like this. The Erasmus scheme gave me the opportunity to improve my language skills and meet people from all over the world. I absolutely loved my time on the Erasmus scheme and hate to think other people would be deprived of it.”
Several people told The Mancunion that their Erasmus placements were a formative experience and that without the grant they couldn’t have been able to participate. Some said they chose Manchester over more prestigious universities simply because of the Erasmus opportunities.
The University says it is fighting to highlight the importance of the Erasmus programme and lobbying the government regarding its continuation post-Brexit.
As part of a new Strategic Plan, university bosses have also committed to providing more international opportunities than ever before.
A Manchester University spokesperson said: “We realise that the uncertainty over the future of Erasmus will be worrying for students, particularly for those for whom a study or work placement in Europe is integral to their programme.
“While there are a number of issues which require guidance from the government, the University is working on contingency arrangements with EU partners to develop agreements which will allow mobility flows beyond Erasmus. We are also in the process of quantifying the financial impact in case government funding is not forthcoming beyond our participation in Erasmus in 2021.”