As was revealed last month, funding for Erasmus+ , a European-wide exchange program which provides placements and grants for students studying and working abroad, has been plunged into uncertainty for those UK students going abroad from this September.
On 19 March 2019, the European Council and Parliament adopted a Regulation “to avoid the disruption of Erasmus+ learning mobility activities involving the United Kingdom in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal…”.
The Regulation states that the UK government and European Commission will guarantee that “those students who are already on their Erasmus+ placement on the day the UK leaves the European Union will not see their mobility period interrupted.”
In other words, students who are already abroad when the UK leaves the EU will be able to finish their work or study placement as planned and their Erasmus grant should not be affected.
But what about the rest?
However, no further information has been given to those 17,000 UK students who are planning to go abroad with the Erasmus+ program from September – let alone the hundreds of thousands of students who would have been considering studying a degree with a Year Abroad placement in the future.
For those students now left in limbo, financial worries are at the front of everyone’s minds. The Erasmus+ program provides a generous grant to its participants (often enough to cover one’s rent), easing the financial burden of moving to another country and making the scheme more accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Without this grant, undertaking an Erasmus+ placement will almost certainly become an experience that many cannot afford.
For example, securing accommodation could become a lot more difficult given that many universities offer subsidised rooms exclusively for Erasmus+ participants, meaning that students may have to spend precious time and money looking for housing elsewhere.
Health insurance is also a major concern. Without a valid European Health Insurance card, students will likely have to turn to private companies for cover, incurring significant costs for those spending several or more months abroad.
The primary motivation for many students undertaking an Erasmus+ placement is to develop their language skills. There is no better way to get a grasp on a new language than total immersion in the country’s university or workplace culture and social life.
With the recent news that national language exam entries in the UK have plummeted and the number of students studying languages at UK universities has halved in the last decade alone, it’s vital that we do everything we can to ensure that the UK’s language skills don’t further deteriorate in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Language skills are indispensable to ensuring the UK can compete in the global economy and is able to remain a key player in trade, politics and development.
While the benefits of UK students going abroad are enormous for UK society as a whole, there is also significant personal development that comes from an Erasmus+ placement. In today’s competitive job market, it’s vital to differentiate yourself – and studying or working in a foreign country can do exactly that.
According to research published by Universities UK (UUK), Year Abroad participants are 19% more likely to achieve a first-class degree, 20% less likely to be unemployed and more likely to be in graduate jobs with higher salaries just six months after graduating. What’s more, this impact is said to be “even more pronounced for students from less advantaged backgrounds.”
An international mindset
When the Erasmus scheme was first set up in 1987, some 3,000 students participated in the scheme. By the year 2017, that figure had risen to a colossal 797,000 students!
In today’s globalised world it’s never been more important for young people to foster international bonds and gain a deep cultural awareness– assets that are crucial to building a fairer, more prosperous and more peaceful society both in Post-Brexit Britain and across Europe.
The Erasmus+ program phenomenon
In the New York Times, Jan Figel, the EU's commissioner for education, training, culture and multilingualism, discussed the ‘Erasmus phenomenon’, the idea that the Erasmus programme has helped develop a collective sense of identity and community amongst young Europeans.
"They [the students] are not asked to give up their national or regional identity - they are asked to go beyond it, and that it what pulls them closer together […] We are creating a community in which diversity is not a problem but a characteristic. It is an integral part of feeling European."
In a UK where Eurosceptic sentiment has been steadily growing over the past 20 years, the Erasmus+ scheme has always highlighted the immeasurable benefits of a more connected, more understanding and more socially-mobile Europe– values that are crucial to maintain even after the UK leaves the EU.
The UK government must now prove that they value their young people and ensure that students of the UK continue to have the opportunity to take part in the ever-important Erasmus+ program.
Wolfestone and the Erasmus+ program
Wolfestone has long been proud to provide Erasmus students with rewarding and professionally-enriching internships here in our Swansea office. A vast number of our past Erasmus+ interns have even gone on to work with us after they graduate and some have become key members of our team.
We firmly believe that being part of the Erasmus+ scheme is crucial not only for the UK translation and interpretation industry, but for international trade and business as a whole.