Wales goes its own way! Ministers launch new Erasmus-style scheme for students

The New International Learning Exchange scheme, announced by Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Wiliams today, will cost £65 million over five years. It aims to enable 15,000 participants from Wales to go overseas over the first four years, with 10,000 participants coming to study or work in Wales. understands the aim is for a large majority of students who take part in the scheme to go to, or arrive from, institutions within the EU.

But others are expected to take part in the scheme from across the globe, including from continents such as North America and Asia.

The programme also aims, where necessary, to fund costs so that international students, teachers and young people can travel to work and study in Wales.

It comes after the EU refused to let Scotland and Wales continue to participate in the Erasmus+ scheme individually unless the whole of the UK would do so.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the Erasmus scheme was “bloated” and “bureaucratic”, claiming it would cost the UK £2 billion a year to stay in it.

Because of this, the UK Government chose not to continue with the EU’s Erasmus scheme as part of the Brexit deal and developed its own £110m Turing programme, which is in place for an initial 12 months.

Meanwhile, the Welsh scheme will be developed by Cardiff University in collaboration with education and youth sector partners ahead of its launch next year.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said: “We have been clear that international exchange programmes, which bring so many benefits to participants, as well as their education providers and wider community, should build on the excellent opportunities that the Erasmus+ programme offered.

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“This is a down payment on our young people’s futures, offering opportunities to all, from all backgrounds.

“Securing these opportunities is particularly important in the context of the difficulties experienced by young people and learners across Wales as a result of the pandemic.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the Welsh Government is committed to ensuring Wales remains an outward-looking nation, which welcomes those who come to study or work here and embraces partnerships across Europe and the world.”

In response, the UK Department for Education stressed the importance of the Turing scheme said it was open for institutions in Wales to sign up to.


A spokesperson added: “The Turing Scheme aims to give more students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to study abroad.

“Backed by £110 million for the first year alone, up to 35,000 students from across the UK will be able to work or study abroad from September.

“The Turing scheme will fund UK participants to go abroad, and we anticipate other countries will do the same.

“The benefits of the exchanges will be kept under review, and the learnings used to build on future schemes.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Losing full access to Erasmus+ was a huge blow for the thousands of Scottish staff and students, community groups and adult learners – from all demographic backgrounds – who used the scheme to live, study or work in Europe.

“We are working with EU institutions to explore options to maintain as close a relationship as possible with the programme and will outline further steps in due course.”

An EU Commission spokesman said they were “aware” of the “Welsh initiative” but were not involved. 

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