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European Commission appear to shoot down Welsh and Scottish hopes of rejoining Erasmus

05 Feb 2021 6 minute read

The European Commission seems to have shot down early Welsh and Scottish hopes of rejoining the Erasmus scheme in some capacity.

Sonya Gospodinova was answering a question at a press conference asking whether the nations could re-join the scheme.

She indicated that because Scotland and Wales were not independent countries but parts of the UK that they would not be able to join the scheme.

“I’ve got a question regarding Brexit and education,” a journalist asked. “There have been reports that Commissioner Gabriella has recently discussed the issue of Scotland rejoining the Erasmus programme with Scotland’s Higher Education Minister.

“So will there be negotiations and how probable is it that Scotland and Wales to re-enter the Erasmus programme?”

“I can confirm that Commissioner Gabriella has received the letter you mentioned, and this letter is being analysed now by the services and we will reply in due course,” Sonya Gospodinova replied.

“What I could mention as well is, in the process of the negotiation the UK decided unfortunately not to join the Erasmus program after their exit from the union.

“And in general based on the Erasmus regulations, only countries can join the program. Thank you.”


Last month the Welsh and Scottish governments issued a statement on the Erasmus+ student exchange scheme saying they will jointly explore how they can participate in the EU scheme in the future.

The statement, agreed by Welsh Minister for Education Kirsty Williams and Further and Scottish Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead, said the UK Government’s decision to pull out of the programme will reduce opportunities for all learners and cut support for the most deprived communities.

They described the UK Government’s replacement, the Turing Scheme, as “inadequate” and as a “lesser imitation of the real thing” that “overrides the devolved nature of education.”

It confirms that the Scottish and Welsh Governments will explore how both countries can continue to enjoy the benefits offered by Erasmus+.

A 145 MEPs have recently written to Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president in Brussels, and Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for education and asked if there was a way for Wales and Scotland to be allowed on the scheme.

The Times has revealed that signatories of the letter, titled Scotland includes a number of influential figures, such as David McAllister, an ally of the German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Radek Sikorski, who was a foreign minister in Donald Tusk’s cabinet between 2007 and 2014.


The joint statement says: “The Scottish and Welsh Governments have always been united in our view that participation in Erasmus+ is in the best interests for the whole of the UK.

“The UK Government’s decision not to associate to the programme is therefore deeply disappointing: a decision that will see support for our most deprived communities cut, and opportunities for all our learners reduced.

“Our participation in Erasmus+ has helped transform the lives of thousands of our students, schoolchildren, teachers, adult learners and young people, from all across the UK.

“In Scotland proportionally more participants have gone abroad through Erasmus+ than from anywhere else in the UK, while proportionally more visitors from the rest of Europe have visited Scotland in return.

“Schools in Wales have led the UK in winning Erasmus+ funding for strategic partnership projects on innovative topics such as green energy, artificial intelligence, and promoting inclusivity in the classroom.

“Erasmus+ is about so much more than just university exchanges. In fact, when taken together, more Erasmus+ funding is set aside for further education, schools, adult education and youth groups than for universities.

“Participating in an Erasmus+ exchange has proven to increase people’s self-confidence, cultural awareness, second-language learning ability, and employability.

“What’s more, these benefits are most pronounced for participants coming from the UK’s most deprived areas, and those furthest removed from traditional education.”

‘Lesser imitation’ 

It adds:  “The UK Government’s proposed alternative, by comparison, is a lesser imitation of the real thing. The Turing Scheme, funded at £105 million for one year, pales in comparison to Erasmus+, which has now had its budget for the next seven years increased to €26.2 billion.

“Turing will offer no funding to the international partners that are needed to allow mobilities to take place unlike Erasmus+, where both parties are awarded funding to facilitate the exchange of learners from one country to another.

“Turing will also fail to support any of the strategic partnerships currently supported by Erasmus+, which help to build relationships with partners in Europe.

“Furthermore, Turing will offer no support whatsoever for our adult education or youth work sectors, while support for our colleges, schools and vocational education and training sectors will be significantly reduced, with limited amounts of funding being made available to each.

“In doing this the UK Government is sending a message that only universities are deserving of full support, and that those in other forms of education – often from our most deprived communities – are not. They are taking away opportunities from our most vulnerable learners, and in doing so reinforcing pre-existing inequalities.

“It is all the more unacceptable then that the UK Government is looking to impose this inadequate scheme upon Scotland and Wales through new legislation that overrides the devolved nature of education.

“We have been clear that what they are proposing is simply not good enough, and that instead any replacement funding for Erasmus+ should be given in the first instance to the Scottish and Welsh Governments, to allow us to exercise our right to deliver educational services within our respective nations.

“We will carry on making these arguments, and continue to advocate for those sectors who once enjoyed the benefits of Erasmus+, and who have been abandoned by the UK Government.

“We have been heartened by the outpouring of support from across Europe for our continued participation in Erasmus+. This is something that Wales, Scotland, and Europe all want; the UK Government stands isolated in its opposition.

“We want the whole of the UK to stay, but we will now explore how Scotland and Wales can continue to enjoy the benefits offered by Erasmus+.”


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