How Brexit may affect international student schemes

After the 2016 Brexit referendum, discussion of changes to the European study abroad scheme are leaving people unsure about their options.

By Harley Young

“For the most part, UK degrees are recognisable around the world, and it’s easier to find employment abroad after you graduate.” says Michael Borth, a PR & Journalism student from Poland.

Michael is one of many students who choose to study in the UK from abroad for various reasons, for example, as a way to improve their English skills. Erasmus is something that makes this easier and more accessible for international students.

What is Erasmus?

Erasmus (the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is a scheme currently run by the European Union and provides students with the option to study in another country across Europe whilst still gaining their degree.

Chloe Hudson, Manager of the Exchange & Study Abroad Volunteering team at Leeds Beckett University said: “All of the partner countries in Erasmus are mainly European Union but there are some exceptions.” An example of these would be Switzerland and Norway. These countries are not currently part of the European Union but wish to have their students involved in the Erasmus scheme so will have either negotiated to be part of it or their Government pays the funding.

A UK Government issued statement on Erasmus+ says: “Subject to the UK reaching agreement with the EU about continuing UK participation as explained above, the original and extended Government underwrite guarantees apply to funding allocated to UK organisations whether in applications submitted to Brussels (centralised) or to the UK National Agency (decentralised), and whether or not the UK is the lead partner.”

Sarah Vanquaethem, a Business Management student from Belgium is currently on a Erasmus placement at Leeds Beckett University and says: “It’s really nice as an international student that you have the feeling that you can talk to everybody. But I’m very sure that Erasmus will not be possible after Brexit. Now it’s so easy as an Erasmus student to go to the UK and study here, but I don’t think that will be the same after Brexit.”

Why is Erasmus good for the UK?

The Government have said that they value the benefits of having Erasmus students in the UK, in regards to education, collaboration and training purposes as well as bringing diversity to the region. Union programmes that are financed by the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) will continue to run until the closer of this financing period in 2020. But after this, the future for Erasmus is uncertain.

So is this something that could affect our economy? Universities UK say that: “International students also bring great benefits to the UK, enhancing the experience of domestic students, developing the UK’s international networks and reputation, and boosting national and local economies.”

They also claim that when “on and off-campus spending” is taken into account, international students and visitors boost the UK economy by £25.8 billion.

Being one of the ten largest populated cities in the UK at 761,500 thus far, and having four universities to choose from Leeds draws a lot of attention and is often a popular choice for those looking to study from abroad. It’s also often a cheaper option to live here in the North, in comparison to that of living in the country’s capital, London.

What’s going to happen?

Kat Firth, International Student Engagement Officer at Leeds Beckett University believes that: “Ever since the word ‘Brexit’ was born, Internationals were more cautious to come to the UK to study until it is understood what it means fully.”

Chloe Hudson explains: “We’ve also been told to keep going with Erasmus, as is, with no changes until 2020 – that will be beyond Brexit, so we’re safe until then. We’ll see what happens. Quite a lot of international students we have at Leeds Beckett are from Europe” explains Chloe. “At the moment they don’t need a visa – we’ll see what happens but that could make quite a big difference.”

 

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