Wales must go it alone from the rest of the UK and establish its own version of the Erasmus education exchange scheme, saying it will fill in the gaps left by the Turing replacement scheme devised by Boris’ government Johnson in Westminster.
The UK government has pulled out of the EU’s Erasmus program, which offered student exchanges as well as school links and work experience, as part of its Brexit deal reached last year. But the Welsh government says the new Turing program lacks key benefits that have made Erasmus so valuable to young people.
Waless Premier Mark Drakeford said his government plans to spend € 65million on the new international learning exchange to enable Welsh institutions to continue the reciprocal staff and student exchanges that have taken place under Erasmus but will not do so under Turing.
Spending time studying, volunteering or doing internships abroad broadens horizons, broadens key skills and brings benefits to communities and organizations here in Wales. We are determined to ensure that young people across the country take advantage of these opportunities, said Drakeford.
It is an investment in the future of our young people, offering opportunities to everyone, from all walks of life. Securing these opportunities is especially important in the context of the challenges faced by young people and learners across Wales as a result of the pandemic.
The leaders of Wales and Scotland were dismayed by the end of Erasmus membership when it was announced in December. Scotland has pressured the EU to continue membership, but its hopes were dashed last month by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who told MPs that as a constituent nation from the UK, Scotland could not join. Students studying at institutions in Northern Ireland can participate in Erasmus through an agreement with the Irish government.
Welsh institutions will still be able to participate in the UK-wide Turing program, which will be funded to the tune of € 105m in its first year from September, paying the administrative and living costs of participants.
But unlike Erasmus + during British accession, Turing’s funding will not be reciprocal, meaning that international partner institutions will not be supported for future exchanges in the UK.
Another key difference is that Turing’s program does not pay tuition fees to study with international partners, which critics say will penalize students from disadvantaged backgrounds. And Turing’s program does not extend to personnel exchanges.
In contrast, the Welsh government has said its program will support, to the extent possible, the full range of activities that have been offered to learners in Wales under Erasmus +.
Kirsty Williams, Education Minister for Wales, said: We have made it clear that international exchange programs, which bring so many benefits to participants, as well as their education providers and the community in the broad sense, should build on the excellent opportunities offered by the Erasmus program.
We owe this next generation of students and learners the same opportunities as in previous years.
Cardiff University will be responsible for implementing the new curriculum over the next year, through an advisory board drawn from the education sector, with exchanges starting in 2022.
The new program will then fill gaps left by Turing, including a commitment to long-term funding, upholding the principle of reciprocal exchanges and inclusion of youth work, the Welsh government said.
Guy Lacey, President of ColegauCymru and Principal of Coleg Gwent FE College, said he was pleased with the announcement: The value of international exchange programs has long been known in the FE industry, providing opportunities to expand horizons of its participants which in turn gives a positive impact on individuals, colleges and the community at large.
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