As the United Kingdom finalised its decision to leave the EU and are now on their way out, they are also waving goodbye to certain privileges.
It’s not only going to be harder for Brits to travel to and from Europe, but Stirling students’ education might also be affected on a broader scale.
The former privileges that Britain had before leaving the European Union ensured that students from all sorts of income could take part in the Erasmus European study abroad programme which guarantees that students that go abroad within the EU, gets awarded a grant. The costs of traveling to another country, living expenses and activities at the receiving University are greatly reduced for the student traveling, which results in less stress and more opportunities.
”One of my main reasons for choosing Stirling and this degree was the fact that the semester abroad is included in the programme and offered the Erasmus funding for it. It makes focusing on studying and taking everything in a lot easier not having to worry as much about finances. And from an EU or international viewpoint not being able to apply for Erasmus programmes definitely takes away from the value and potential of choosing to study at a UK university. Without Erasmus I would not be able to complete my degree (…)”, Ezter Hegedus, 21, says when asked about what Erasmus means for her.
Currently, the Scottish Government is “awaiting clarity” on the future of the Erasmus European Study Programme according to the Scottish Higher Education Minister, Richard Lochhead. The programme has been running for 30 years, and is one of the most prominent cultural and educational projects within the European Union.
The beginning of this week marks the second week back at campus after the UK left the European Union, and the overall uncertainty affects students from all different degrees, as Erasmus is an important part of many of them.
“As a student studying Spanish here, my Erasmus was a key part of my degree, everyone who studies Spanish or French is obligated to go abroad and most people chose to go to Europe, thanks to Erasmus”, says Marie Stadler, 23, studying International Management and Intercultural Studies.
More Scots take part in Erasmus than any other British country, which results in over 2000 Scottish Higher Education students taking part each year.
“It’s really important going forward that we are able to maintain those deep European links we have and we have to find ways of doing that irrespective of the fact that Brexit has happened against our will”, says Richard Lochhead.
He also emphasises that the Scottish Government and the UK Government will be continuing talks in order to ensure that appropriate financial support is available for mobility of students within Europe, but the fact still stands that there are “no concrete guarantees whatsoever” that Erasmus will continue. Likewise, there has been no indication from the UK Government of plans of a successor to Erasmus.
At Stirling University, 78 students are currently studying abroad as part of the program, and a further 33 are so far confirmed to go to Europe the next academic year.
The international mobility manager, Jo Hagerty, says, “whilst we are currently awaiting clarity about the future of the UK’s participation in the Erasmus program, Stirling students will still have the opportunity to study abroad in Europe.”
A similar attitude is mediated by Richard Lochhead stating, “Our [Scotland’s] preference is to continue to participate in Erasmus, which you can do even if you’re not in the European Union. That’s our number one preference.”