Durham University has secured funding for more than 200 Durham students to study, work or volunteer abroad in the 2021/22 academic year, from a choice of over 20 partner countries worldwide.
The Turing scheme replaces the Erasmus programme, though concerns have been raised over costs not being fully covered.
The Turing Scheme was set up to provide funding for international opportunities in education and training. The programme was announced in December 2020, backed by £110m in funding, and organisations can apply for funding for projects in the 2021-22 academic year. The majority of this funding will go to universities.
Nationally, the scheme hopes to allow 40,000 young people nationally to study or work abroad, according to the Department for Education. 120 universities have applied to the scheme.
The Turing Scheme is seen as a replacement for the Erasmus programme that the UK is no longer a part of, having left the programme at the beginning of 2021 as part of the post-Brexit trade deal.
Erasmus is an exchange programme that allows students to study at universities in other EU member states, often as a way of advancing their language skills or the experience of living in a different country.
The government highlights how their replacement aims to address barriers that prevent some students from travelling abroad for a full year programme of work or study. To facilitate this, the minimum duration of a Turing Scheme opportunity is four weeks.
The North of England in particular has traditionally seen one of the lowest uptakes of the Erasmus programme. The government has specifically targeted areas historically underrepresented under the Erasmus programme, and an expected 48% of applicants to be from disadvantaged backgrounds.
However, concerns have been raised over the fact that the scheme provides no support to cover tuition fees, which may make the scheme inaccessible to many students. Under Erasmus, these tuition fees were waived. Although the Turing scheme includes 150 countries, visits will require successful visa application, which was not an issue for European countries included under the Erasmus scheme.
Whereas Erasmus was a reciprocal programme, the Turing Scheme only offer opportunities for UK students to travel abroad, rather than also including placements for European students in the UK.
Durham’s funding bid focused on increasing participation from under-represented groups of students and included short-term work and study opportunities to support this.
Professor Claire O’Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) at Durham University, said: “The Turing Scheme expands opportunities for many of our students by providing significant experience overseas, which will enhance their future employability prospects and provide them with valuable life skills.”
Although the UK has left the Erasmus scheme, already agreed exchanges for the academic year 2021/22 will continue as planned.
Image: Thomas Tomlinson
Infographic: Lilith Foster-Collins