Students from Northern Ireland are to be given access to the EU’s Erasmus study abroad programme despite the UK leaving the scheme post-Brexit, it has been announced.
Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University are also exploring whether they can join the Turing Programme, a £100 scheme announced by the UK government as a replacement.
Speaking to the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, the Irish Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said that Dublin had agreed “to extend the benefits of Erasmus+ to students in Northern Ireland even after Brexit”.
He said that “the government of Ireland made a very solemn commitment to Northern Ireland that, even after Brexit, we would make sure that there were still ways for us to co-operate and collaborate in relation to higher education”.
This funding will be available to all full-time students attending third level institutions and will not be limited to those with an Irish passport, meaning that British passport holders will also qualify. They will need to temporarily register with Irish higher education institutions to participate.
Mr Harris said that this was “a very practical example of us wanting to continue to collaborate with Northern Ireland post-Brexit”.
Erasmus has been invaluable for student mobility and Ulster University’s current Erasmus-plus mobility funding remains in place until 2022. We will consider the available opportunities for continued exchange and mobility for our students
– Ulster University
It is estimated that the cost would be around €2 million per year, but the minister said that “the cost is relatively low… But it’s not a cost, it’s an investment”.
He added: “It’s a permanent commitment, that as long as students in Northern Ireland wish to avail of this option, we will put that option in place.”
Last year, 649 students and staff from Northern Ireland took part in the scheme.
QUB confirmed it will continue to use the Erasmus programme, and said: “Once the university reopens after Christmas we will be exploring the possibilities offered by the Turing Programme. We want to give all our students the best possible opportunities in their studies.”
Ulster University said: “Erasmus has been invaluable for student mobility and Ulster University’s current Erasmus-plus mobility funding remains in place until 2022. We will consider the available opportunities for continued exchange and mobility for our students.”
The UK government’s decision to withdraw from the scheme has been criticised by devolved nation governments, institutions and students.