For higher education, there is at least one high-profile casualty of the down-to-the-wire Brexit deal: UK participation in Erasmus.
Instead of continuing to take part in the European Union’s signature academic-exchange program, the UK will start its own £100 million study-abroad initiative,
Gavin Williamson, the education minister, announced
after a new UK-EU trade deal was hammered out. Williamson said the new program, which will be named after mathematician and code breaker Alan Turing, better fit national priorities, such as ensuring that more disadvantaged students get an international-education opportunity.
Unlike Erasmus, Turing will focus solely on sending UK students abroad. A challenge for Erasmus has been that UK universities attracted nearly twice as many overseas students as they sent to other countries, which the government said was a costly imbalance. During a press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the mobility program “extremely expensive” and said the UK “more or less loses out on the deal.”
The withdrawal decision was criticized, with Scotland’s universities minister calling Turing “watered down
.” Simon Marginson, a comparative-education expert at the University of Oxford, told me that “Brexit is such a backward step in many areas.”
Because, like Americans, relatively few UK students study abroad, their European classmates often introduce them to new cultures and perspectives. That exposure will be lost with the pullout from Erasmus, Marginson said:
We roll the stone slowly up the hill. But before it can stabilize at the top, down it comes again, crashing past us and it rolls all the way to the bottom. We start over.
Setting up new agreements in time for the 2021 academic year could be difficult to do, especially without reciprocity of exchange. As this Twitter thread spells out, among the many hurdles are negotiating credit transfer and navigating academic bureaucracy: