Thousands of students could be denied government funding to study abroad if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, it has emerged today.
Today’s government technical notice clarifies that British students currently in Europe on Erasmus+ placements should continue to receive funding for the duration of their time abroad. However, excluding the grants that have already been agreed, the UK government has not committed to providing any further funding for students planning to study in Europe in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
In 2016/17, 16,561 British students studied on Erasmus+ placements, and we would expect a similar number to be planning to this coming year. In particular, students from disadvantaged backgrounds would suffer as they are less likely to be able to find an alternative form of funding to help pay their living and travel costs while in Europe.
As part of its no-deal Brexit contingency planning, Universities UK is updating its guidance to universities on the impact of no-deal, to help them minimise the impact on students.
Alistair Jarvis, Universities UK Chief Executive, says the government must urgently reconsider its position: “Today’s news from government provides welcome clarity for British students currently in Europe on Erasmus+ placements, as they should continue to receive funding for the duration of their time abroad. However, excluding any grants that may have already been agreed, government has not committed to new funding for study abroad placements beyond this.
“This means thousands of British students could miss out on the life-changing opportunity to take on placements at European universities on the Erasmus+ scheme. Students find themselves caught up in this political turmoil through no fault of their own. In particular, this decision will affect students from poorer backgrounds and disabled students, many of whom rely on financial help to meet the extra costs of studying abroad.
“As a matter of urgency, the UK government must reconsider its decision and commit to fund 2019/20 study abroad placements in the event of no deal. Research shows that studying abroad boosts academic performance, and helps students from a range of backgrounds develop the skills and global networks they need to secure jobs in a successful global trading nation.”
Erasmus+ provides students in higher education with the opportunity to study abroad in Europe for three to 12 months (per university cycle) as part of their degree. Eligible students receive an Erasmus+ grant provided by the European Commission – this is paid through their university. This grant contributes towards the extra costs that they may encounter from studying abroad. For 2018/19 the grant can be up to €300 to €350 a month, depending on the country you visit. For students eligible for the various higher education widening participation premiums there is a monthly supplement of €120. Students with a severe disability or exceptional special needs may be entitled to extra funding to cover associated costs while abroad but you must apply for this before departure. UK students going abroad for the whole academic year may also qualify for a large contribution made towards their UK tuition fees for the year they are away. Students take part in study mobility at any time in their degree (except during the first year) although it depends on the structure of the arrangements their university has with its partners. Universities received €62 million in Erasmus+ funding in 2017 to support outward student mobility.
In July 2018, the UK government extended a commitment on EU funding to also underwrite the payments of all competitive grants to include centralised Erasmus+ actions (e.g. collaborative projects). On mobility specifically, the government has also agreed to extend its underwrite, although subject to agreement with the EU, until the end of 2020, as set out in the government’s Technical Notice on Erasmus+ in the UK if there’s no Brexit deal.
On 4 January 2019, Universities UK sent an open letter to MPs on the risks of no-deal Brexit. In light of today’s decision, Universities UK is updating its guidance for universities on the implications of a no-deal Brexit, minimising risks and the impact on students.