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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Have the Tories sent Erasmus for an early bath?

The defeat of an amendment tabled by Liberal Democrats, which would have enshrined in law a duty for ministers to try to keep Britain in the Erasmus programme, means that the future is bleak for one of the European Union's most successful programmes.

The amendment would have forced the government to keep the scheme open to UK students after Brexit, providing exchange opportunities at universities around Europe. But the programme spreads its net much wider. For example, Erasmus helps fund work experience in Swansea for apprentices from Mannheim, helping to keep open the two cities twinning links.

I have also come across teacher exchange programmes funded by Erasmus plus, widening the opportunities available to all concerned, including the pupils of the participating schools.

As the Independent reports the House of Commons vote has led college representatives to conclude that there is now “a definite risk” that British students will lose access after the end of this year, when a “transition period” to Brexit concludes:

Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James was among those taking to social media to denounce the outcome, which she branded “disgraceful”.

Following the vote, Lib Dem education spokesperson Layla Moran told The Independent that it should be a “no-brainer” for the government to commit now to Erasmus+.

“Erasmus has transformed the way we think about education,” said Ms Moran. “It has made studying abroad fashionable and affordable.

“Universities warn that no UK-led scheme could ever match the reputation and extensive partnerships that Erasmus has to offer. But rather than voting for our amendment, Conservative MPs are willing to let ministers negotiate away our membership of Erasmus if they think they could do a better job.

“It is time the Tories wake up and smell the coffee – are they in favour of staying in Erasmus or not? Liberal Democrats will fight to stop the Tories taking us out of vital EU programmes, weakening our universities and limiting the horizons of young people.”

So much for taking back control.
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