Talks could lead to Erasmus extension for Scottish students

The Scottish Government are looking at potentially gaining access to the Erasmus scheme.The Scottish Government are looking at potentially gaining access to the Erasmus scheme.
The Scottish Government are looking at potentially gaining access to the Erasmus scheme.

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Scottish Government ministers have held talks with the European Commission around the possibility of providing access for Scottish students to the Erasmus exchange scheme.

The talks, revealed in The Times, come as almost 150 MEPs wrote to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen asking for clarification as to whether Scotland and Wales could rejoin the programme.

Scottish students are no longer eligible for the scheme after the UK Government ditched it during the negotiations with the European Union around Brexit.

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The UK Government has said it intends to replace the initiative with its own ‘Turing Scheme’, named after the mathematician Alan Turing, and will provide opportunities to more students than available through the Erasmus scheme.

The Times reports talks between Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for education in Brussels, and the Scottish higher education minister Richard Lochhead took place to discuss the potential of the two administrations working together on the scheme.

It comes as the letter from MEPs to Ms von der Leyen states they “recognise a pronounced aspiration coming from Scotland and Wales” to rejoin the scheme.

The letter has been signed by several high-profile European politicians and was drawn up by Terry Reintke, who spent a year in Edinburgh on the Erasmus scheme.

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It asks whether there is a “pathway” for Scotland to rejoin the scheme.

Mr Lochhead had described the Turing Scheme as a “watered-down” version of Erasmus and criticised the move by the UK Government to ditch the scheme.

Speaking after the trade deal with the European Union was signed, Mr Lochhead said: “The loss of Erasmus is huge blow. This is simply unacceptable and we are looking at alternative options.

“After years of discussions and meetings, the UK Government has made these decisions irrespective of the views of the devolved administrations.

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"We found out from media reports more details of the UK’s alternative scheme, which is a watered down and less well-funded version of Erasmus and it’s not even an exchange program because there is no support for visits to Scotland.”

A commission spokeswoman told The Times that EU negotiators had made it clear that Erasmus would be available to the whole of the UK and the letter from MEPs would be replied to in due course.

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