Scotland falling behind Wales in replacing EU’s Erasmus scheme, Lib Dems claim
The Liberal Democrats have accused Scottish ministers of falling behind their Welsh counterparts in replacing the Erasmus student exchange programme.
Willie Rennie, the party’s education spokesman, said the Scottish Government has “sat on its hands”.
The UK left the Erasmus scheme following Brexit and the Scottish and Welsh governments said the alternative Turing Scheme was inadequate.
Earlier this year, the Welsh Government launched the Taith learning exchange programme, with £65 million in funding.
Freedom of information requests received by the Scottish Lib Dems said there were 5,698 exchange opportunities lined up with the Taith programme from September 2022.
A response from the Scottish Government said discussions around funding the Scottish equivalent were ongoing, as was the consultation process.
Mr Rennie said: “The Erasmus programme is a fantastic initiative that helped us forge relationships with our European friends and opened up the world for Scottish universities and students.
“While Liberal Democrats in government in Wales sought to ensure students and academics would not miss out, the Scottish Government have sat on their hands.
“These freedom of information requests show the level of disinterest from ministers.”
He continued: “It is just another example of the SNP cynically exploiting pro-European sentiment for votes but refusing to actually do any of the hard work or put their money where their mouths are.
“If the SNP are serious about boosting the Scottish economy and delivering opportunities for a generation of students they should get to work and establish a two-way programme from next September, backed by a system of grant guarantees to ensure it is accessible to all.
“There’s no good reason to delay.”
Jamie Hepburn, minister for higher and further education at Holyrood, said: “The UK Government’s misguided decision not to associate to Erasmus+ has resulted in support for our most deprived communities to be cut and opportunities for all our learners reduced.
“An independent Scotland could see the country’s learners and institutions benefit from full participation in Erasmus+ once again as we seek to re-join the European Union.
“In recognition of the importance of educational mobility, we are developing a bespoke Scottish Education Exchange Programme.
“We are engaging with stakeholders in higher and further education, schools, community learning and development, youth and sports and listening to their views, priorities and requirements for a Scottish Education Exchange Programme.”
Wales’ Education Minister unveiled the new international exchange programme for Wales, to replace the Erasmus+ programme, in February.
Jeremy Miles revealed the details of the scheme today, saying that it was “tailor-made for Wales”.
Over four years the aim is for 15,000 students and staff from Wales to travel overseas, and for 10,000 in turn to work or study in Wales.
The five-year programme will run until 2026 with Welsh Government funding of up to £65 million. They said it would “offer life-changing opportunities to travel and learn for all learners and staff in every part of Wales.”
The scheme, chaired by former Education Minister Kirsty Williams, will cover higher education, adult education, further and vocational education, and schools, as well as youth work.
Taith will also aim bring students and educators from around the world to Wales, “to help enrich our education settings and bring even greater diversity and culture to our classrooms and campuses,” the Welsh Government said.
“This raises Wales’ international profile, and enhances Wales’ reputation as an open and outward-looking nation,” they added.
The programme will help deliver the Welsh Government’s priorities in transforming international engagement and developing the best in international education and youth sectors through sustainable actions that benefit current and future generations in Wales, the Welsh Government said.
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