Government answers questions on Erasmus+ and Brexit: what does it mean for ELT?
3 April 2019

The House of Lords has questioned Viscount Younger of Leckie, the government's spokesperson on higher education business, about a committee report on the UK's future participation in the Erasmus and Horizon programmes.

Questions were overwhelmingly about the future of the schemes for UK's young people, students and scientists, though Labour peer Lord Bassam took a wider view. He said: "It would be remiss of me not to mention the position of students seeking to study in the UK. Can we be assured that there is no threat to the status of students currently studying here? Can we be further assured that internal discussions are taking place within government and especially the Home Office to guarantee the extension of the temporary leave to remain scheme? Without that, the future of mobility learning will be jeopardised, and our place as a centre of excellence for the student experience placed at risk."

His question was not directly answered by Viscount Younger, but he reiterated the Government's intention to retain close ties with EU partners in education, science, and research. "As the report noted, the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes have provided so many people in the UK with the opportunity to move across the EU: to learn, work and carry out research and innovation. UK businesses and researchers have driven forward a wide range of inspiring Horizon 2020 projects. As of the end of September 2018, the UK had more than 10,000 participations in the programme."

He continued: "The Government recognise the important role that both schemes have played in the UK and remain committed to supporting collaboration with our neighbours in the EU and beyond.

"While the UK benefits from sending our own young people on outgoing mobilities, the UK hosts around twice as many incoming Erasmus+ mobilities as it sends out…. it is interesting to note that the UK's notional contribution to the Erasmus+ budget currently exceeds its share of receipts."

The Viscount said passing the withdrawal agreement would ensure that UK participation in Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 remained largely unchanged until the end of 2020. "However, the Government are preparing for every eventuality, and in the event of no deal the Government will underwrite funding for successful bids submitted to Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 before the end of 2020. For the avoidance of doubt, this guarantee would apply for the lifetime of projects. This sizeable funding pledge will be not part of, but additional to, funding already committed in existing departmental budgets. Lord Jay asked whether the Government can confirm that they will spend the money required in the EU's regulation for a no-deal guarantee. I reassure him that the Government have been clear that, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK has obligations to the EU—and the EU obligations to the UK—that will survive Brexit. These would need to be negotiated."

The Viscount reminded the Lords that in January the Government published a technical notice on Erasmus+ which provided guidance to organisations and participants on the UK's anticipated participation in the current Erasmus+ programme in the event of no deal.

Future participation in Erasmus+

The Viscount noted that the report had noted the benefit of continuing to contribute to Erasmus+. "Indeed, the UK is very interested in exploring future participation in the Erasmus+ successor scheme for the period 2021 to 2027. I understand that the successor scheme will include increased school exchange opportunities and a greater emphasis on widening participation. The Government have welcomed proposals on this and will continue to participate in discussions while we remain in the EU," he said adding that it was also interested in emerging proposals for the next, 2020-27 Erasmus+ programme. "We will continue to consider the emerging proposals carefully, and whether the UK will participate in the future programme, and on what basis, will be subject to wider negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU."

What happens if the UK cannot join a future Erasmus+?

The Viscount said he could assure the Lords that the Government understood the value of international mobility and was driving forward work on domestic alternative options to support it. The potential benefit of the UK having its own scheme was the ability to tailor it to domestic needs and target funding where it was most needed, he said. However, whatever scheme the UK was part of, the government would want to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

Answering a question for fee status for EU students beginning courses in 2020, he said guarantees on student finance for EU nationals were announced in July 2018, and would not be altered in the case of no-deal. He said the Government would ensure students and institutions had the information they needed well in advance of courses beginning in the academic year 2020-21.

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