Young Brits hoping to study or train abroad this academic year got £22m less from the UK’s new Brexit-era ‘Turing Scheme’ than was given out by the EU Erasmus programme it replaced.
The Turing Scheme figure is £7m up from its 2021/22 launch year, but the amount given specifically to higher education (rather than further and vocational education, or schools) has dropped by £5m.
Not everyone who applies to Turing will receive cash, but students must secure university placements to study abroad before they can bid for the money. One told openDemocracy they “wouldn’t have signed up, due to the financial uncertainty” if a year abroad hadn’t been compulsory for their course.
Although not all students under Erasmus+ received money, they were typically told this in advance because of the scheme’s longer funding cycles. By contrast, some students told openDemocracy that they had only been informed of their Turing funding status after they had actually begun their study abroad, leaving them in difficult financial positions.
A Department for Education spokesperson claimed: “Every successful university had its grant funding confirmed in early July so they could give certainty to students travelling from September.” But students who spoke to us had their funding confirmed months later than this – some were still waiting in September and October.
Unlike Erasmus+, which sets out budgets for six or seven years, Turing participant universities apply for funding annually, so the number of students an institution can send abroad fluctuates every year.
The University of Wolverhampton’s funding in 2022 fell by 30% compared to 2021, and was 60% less than under Erasmus+ in 2020. Disclosing the figures in a Freedom of Information response, the university told us that funding competition this year would be “tough”.
The scheme reserves 52% of its places for disadvantaged students. However, these students, like others, have had to commit to costly placements, with application deadlines normally in spring at the latest, before funding was confirmed.