Ahead of the European Parliamentary Elections taking place on Thursday, six of the West Midlands candidates took part in a panel debate at the University of BirminghamWritten by Tom Leaman on 22nd May 2019
UK to Leave but Erasmus to Stay?
News Reporter Charlotte Gill met with the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Robin Mason, to discuss the impact of Brexit on the Erasmus programme
On February 22d, Redbrick reported that a no-deal Brexit might put Erasmus grants under threat. This would potentially affect hundreds of UoB students who study abroad in Europe.
Redbrick met with Robin Mason, International Pro-Vice-Chancellor, to discuss the University of Birmingham’s Erasmus study abroad plans regarding Brexit.
As stated on its website, UoB has collaborated with organisations such as Universities UK and Russell Group to ‘influence Government and put forward the strongest possible case for universities.’ Mason clarified that this has involved lobbying Chris Skidmore, the Universities and Science Minister.
It has also necessitated the provision of information about the Erasmus programme's importance for the University, for whom studying abroad is an integral part of their degree, and evidence of the benefits such as increased academic attainments and employment prospects.
Mason told Redbrick that almost weekly meetings have taken place between university executives, which continue as the Brexit state of play continues to change.
For students currently studying abroad, funding remains and the University feels confident that their eligibility is secure, though UoB do have measures in place to support students academically and personally in the unlikely case that their mobility is cut short.
“The University feels optimistic that the UK will remain in the Erasmus scheme
Students have still been encouraged to apply for an Erasmus grant for the 2019-2020 academic year. When asked why this was the case even though there is uncertainty around funding, Mason explained the University feels optimistic that the UK will remain in the Erasmus scheme. He believes it has a lot of ‘political recognition’ and notes that it is possible even in the case of a no-deal Brexit for the UK to remain part of the Erasmus programme. It is worth students submitting an application as there is the possibility that the UK will continue to be a part of the scheme.
UoB has provisions in place for the combination of a no-deal Brexit and exclusion from Erasmus, recognising that if the government fails to commit to underwriting Erasmus funding, this would have to come from the University.
UoB would underwrite the Erasmus grant - at an equivalent level as 2018-2019 - for students for whom studying abroad is an integral part of their course. This would also apply to Widening Participation and Access students, even if study abroad is not integral to their course.
For these two groups, funding would come from a central university budget which exists for such contingencies. Mason assures, therefore, that students not studying abroad would not see a lowered standard or negative impact on their experience due to a lack of funding elsewhere.
In order to commit to this funding, the University concluded that it would not underwrite the grant for students who are not Widening Participation and Access students and who want to study abroad in Europe, but do not have to for their degree course.
Mason confirms that the places would still be available for these students, as would the exchange agreements on a fee waiver basis, if they still wish to study abroad and self-fund.
“It would be a mistake to dial back aspirations for student mobility
When asked if the University worries that study abroad targets could be affected by Brexit - as students may be deterred by political uncertainty or a potential lack of funding - Mason says it would be a ‘mistake to dial back aspirations for student mobility.’
UoB is continuing with its restructuring measures to make studying abroad a more flexible option. Examples of this include the promotion of one semester placements, which would keep mobility within a three year degree course and lower the cost. There are currently around 650 outgoing students and over half study abroad without Erasmus funding already, either because they self-fund or choose non-Erasmus countries.
Therefore, Mason feels confident that mobility will not be enormously affected and assures that the University has measures in place to cater for any Brexit outcome.