The UK is well known for the quality of its Higher Education. Subsequently, when I first dreamed about doing a student exchange under the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme, I always imagined coming to the UK. But my home university always warned me of Brexit. I was told that if I would not be able to afford my living costs in the UK, it was better not to go at all. Even though I chose three universities, two of them were British.
Despite no Erasmus+ funding guarantees, I decided to take up my offer to study at Strathclyde for my Erasmus. My home university, like many EU universities, expected that the UK would leave the EU on 31 October 2019. Based on this worry, some EU universities did not apply for Erasmus+ funds for their students already studying in the UK earlier on in September 2019. This meant that while some European students were receiving their Erasmus+ funds on time, others were worried. As a result, my colleagues and I received the Erasmus+ funds in late November/early December when the semester was coming to an end. I was fortunate because I had my family’s support, but other students might not have been so lucky.
Erasmus and Brexit Concerns
My colleague, Pauline Pigeon, who is also an Erasmus student at Strathclyde, has told me about her Erasmus experience and concerns: “Erasmus was something I dreamt of ever since I stepped into university. With Brexit came the uncertainty that I would not be able to go to a UK university and I was glad to be able to do it. Scottish universities are well known in Europe and I consider myself lucky to have been able to study here, especially as my major is Scottish History.”
“I have to admit that ever since 2016 and the referendum on Brexit I always thought that it would not happen, it seems that I was wrong and I feel disappointed by the British people a bit. I am very much a Europhile and I do believe that our future will be better as part of the EU than without it,” added Pauline.
On 8 January 2020, MPS voted against an amendment which would have required the government to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus programme post-Brexit. This defeat is raising fears among UK students who want to study abroad, and EU students who want to come to the UK.
Strath Union President on Erasmus and Brexit
I met with Matt Crilly, Strath Union’s president to speak about Brexit’s impact on Erasmus+ students and the measures that the Union is taking to save the programme in Scotland.
Mr. Crilly seemed concerned about the removal of Erasmus for students’ mobilities and opportunities in Europe, especially the most disadvantaged students who rely on Erasmus’s financial support.
“Erasmus grants allow students to go and study abroad and see different countries. I think ultimately, the removal of Erasmus is a real shame because the burden will fall hardest on the shoulders of students who cannot afford it. It renders certain degrees very difficult to complete. If students are studying languages, it makes it difficult to learn the language abroad,” said Matt Crilly
There have been discussions between the Strath Union and the National Union of Students (NUS) to protect Erasmus+ programme post-Brexit. As well as this, a “Bring Back Erasmus” petition was created by Alison Walker, a student at Strathclyde. 254 people have signed the petition so far. However, at a national level another petition “Save Erasmus” went viral, adding to the pressure on the government to protect the UK’s role in Erasmus. This petition currently has 46,480 signatures.
“The Scottish government is quite keen to save Erasmus. The Scottish government likes the idea of Erasmus, so I am hopeful that they might be able to try and achieve something in Scotland" added Matt Crilly.
If you are not sure why Brexit is taking so long? Please check out this video:
Sara Galy is an Erasmus Student and Content Writer at Strath Union.