Brexit has now happened, but here’s what it means for Erasmus and your year studying abroad

Did you know I did a semester in Berlin?


A lot happened right at the end of 2020: Covid cases hit 50,000 a day, over 40 per cent of the population of England were put into the toughest Tier 4 restrictions before lockdown, and everyone went weak-kneed for Simon Basset from Bridgerton. Oh, there was Brexit.

Since 1987, the EU has funded the Erasmus scheme – allowing university students to study abroad as a part of their degree. Last year, over 54,000 were studying abroad – popular destinations including France, Spain and Italy.

However, following Brexit and the withdrawal from the EU on 31st December 2020, the UK no longer contributes to the Erasmus scheme and has therefore ended the participation of UK unis in studying abroad programmes.

brexit, erasmus, year abroad

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and notorious silver fox, called the withdrawal a “regret” after the UK “decided not to participate in the Erasmus exchange programme”.

With Brexit, the era of students completing an academic year abroad or even a single semester in Paris and then bringing it up from now until the end of time might just be over.

Here’s what Brexit means for Erasmus and your year abroad:

What if I have already planned to study abroad?

If you were in the EU before Brexit on 31 December 2020, you can get “broadly the same support, including fees, as students from the EU member state you are studying in”. Talk to the European university you’re studying at for more information.

Importantly, the Government page on studying in the EU says: “Anyone with a placement already organised should make sure both your home provider and host agree that it is safe to proceed as planned during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.”

“You may need to make changes to your plans or start your placement at a later date if the situation changes.”

Students and staff must make their own immigration arrangements and ensure their visas are sorted when travelling to EU countries.

Can I still study abroad?

Even with Brexit, the sun has not yet set on Erasmus and studying abroad. The government has promised a replacement Turing Scheme for students, named after WWII codebreaking hero Alan Turing. The details of this are still unclear, but Boris Johnson has suggested that students can travel to “the best universities in the world” rather than being limited to a choice of European-based institutions.

Boris added “We want our young people to experience the immense intellectual stimulation of Europe but also of the whole world”. Consider us stimulated, Johnson!

brexit, erasmus, year abroad

The £100m scheme begins in September 2021, offering funding for around 35,000 students to start working and studying abroad, boosting “Global Britain’s ties with international partners”.

The national plan is expected to ambitiously support disadvantaged students in travelling abroad, and students doing part of their course in the EU may be eligible for support from Student Finance England.

We apprehensively await further details about the post-Brexit scheme, but similar to Alan Turing’s famous Enigma machine, understanding the Government’s plan for a replacement to the Erasmus system is a tough code to crack.

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