Written by Guy Roberts
Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” This is a quote from Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Catholic priest, teacher and eminent theologian, after which the Erasmus Scheme was named. It is fitting therefore, that the Erasmus (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) Programme does indeed give light to those who strive to learn in an interesting environment, away from the monotony of home. The Erasmus Scheme allowsUK students to study at European universities, and vice versa, enriching the educational experience of both UK students and those from mainland Europe.
The Erasmus Programme is the umbrella term for many schemes, primarily Erasmus+, which is a programme introduced in 2014 that integrates all the EU’s current schemes for education, sport and youth in general. This integration has allowed many capable young students to travel abroad to study in places as interesting as Rotterdam, Stockholm, Reykjavik and another 29 countries are available. These countries all have vastly different cultures and traditions from those in Britain, and the experience gifted to students allows them to gain a unique education, different from that available in the UK.
This is all set to change, as UK students are increasingly likely to lose the ability to apply to the Erasmus Scheme once Brexit is passed. If the UK restricts the freedom of movement, then the likelihood is that the Erasmus scheme will be off limits to UK students, much as it is to Switzerland after they limited the freedom of movement. As for economically, the UK is likely to miss out on a £1.49 billion injection directly into the economy from EU students in the form of rent and subsistence, as well as £600 million paid directly to universities in the form of fees. It has been said that Aberystwyth University, one of Britain’s most international universities had 150 Erasmus applications had been withdrawn during the week of the In-Out Referendum.
The Erasmus Programme is one of the irrefutable successes of the European Union and has affected the lives of thousands of students both directly and obliquely – it has been stated that roughly 1 million babies have been born as a result of couples meeting during their year abroad. It can do nothing but be refined and improve, with more and more students applying and taking years abroad; according to Erasmus statistics there has been a 115% increase in the seven years between 2007 and 2014. It is a shame therefore that UK students may miss out on the progression of this magnificent scheme, particularly when the youth voted remain in the referendum.
It is crucial for the UK government to put the most underrepresented demographic in British politics first for once, and secure the Erasmus Programme for the youth of today. If the UK is to have a skilled workforce of capable professionals, the Erasmus Programme is key to ensuring there is no advantage to competing nations’ students.
In these times of division and discord, I believe these words as said by Desiderius Erasmus are more pertinent now than they ever have been – “I am a citizen of the world, known to all and to all a stranger.”