Auf Wiedersehen, Erasmus

Why the UK’s withdrawal from this project could impact students for years to come if a fitting replacement isn’t found

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It was an ice cold evening in Stuttgart, Germany in the winter of 2017. I had left pre drinks at a friends flat and was stumbling over to the U-bahn stop for a train destined to the city centre. The drink was flowing and I was surrounded by people from all corners of Europe and further afield. This was one of just many nights out in a European city after many days at a European University made possible through the Erasmus programme; a programme which the UK will no longer be part of.

First and foremost, I’m aware that a similar programme is being discussed for UK students to take part in, although just how far along this is to happening remains to be seen at this point.

No, this is more of a look at why it is so important to have a practical, affordable option for students to experience everything which their European counterparts do.

During my time as an Erasmus student, I studied a minor degree, learned some basic German, and visited towns and cities across Germany and four other European nations. The programme was promoted well and I received support from my home university in Coventry. It was something I had wanted to take part in from the early days of uni life, and it gladly did not disappoint.

The UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus programme is a casualty of Brexit, with the UK government citing the costs as being an issue. Yet for millions of students, an overwhelming number of which voted to remain in the EU and have shown support for remain ever since, the end to the simple opportunity to study on the continent is a real blow.

Under Erasmus, it was possible for students to travel freely to any one of the other 26 EU nations. This experience was not only a good bullet point to add to the CV, it was an excellent social opportunity. I met people from all over the world and have remained in touch with some ever since and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Brexit was a major talking point back then. It didn’t seem like the Brexit end game was very close at that point of spring 2018, it turns out we were right.

UK students may not have felt as European as those on the continent before Brexit, but losing the chance to live, study and, eventually, work in the EU through straightforward means will be leaving many even more disconnected.

It is not only the UK students going abroad who benefited from Erasmus. In 2019, the UK welcomed 30,000 students from overseas. These are students who have been able to gain straightforward access to the education, and facilities and social experiences on offer here. With the UK effectively off the table, students will no doubt increasingly look elsewhere for their international enhancement.

The new programme, which is set to be in place for September 2021, has been given positive feedback. Whatever the programme, however, it will take a lot for it to match the easy nature of being able to get to the foreign countries in the first place.

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I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. Passionate writing about politics, culture, sport, society and more

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