More than 40,000 students could be offered places in the Turing scheme, the government’s replacement for Erasmus.
The Department for Education (DfE) said that young people “will be able to work and study abroad” as a result of the new scheme, which will allow students to travel to more than 150 countries (Covid restrictions permitting).
According to the DfE’s estimates, 120 universities have applied for a share of the £110m scheme, alongside schools and further education colleges, to fund work and study placements. The 40,000 total is said to include 28,000 placements for university students in 2021-22 – more than the 18,300 placements under the Erasmus scheme in the 2018-19 academic year.
The DfE claimed that about half of all places were expected to go to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and funding has been targeted at areas such as the Midlands and the north of England that traditionally had low Erasmus+ take-up.
Students from poorer backgrounds will get funding to cover expenses such as travel and visas, and all participants will receive a living costs grant.
Under the Turing scheme, the minimum duration of a university placement has been reduced to four weeks – from three months under Erasmus+ – to make going abroad accessible. Research published by Universities UK International last month found that students who made a short trip overseas still reported a boost to their skills and confidence in their academic ability.
However, critics have highlighted that the Turing scheme does not include an automatic tuition fee waiver, meaning that universities will have to strike such agreements with international partner institutions.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The chance to work and learn in a country far from home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – which broadens minds, sharpens skills, and improves outcomes.
The Conservatives’ rhetoric on the Turing Scheme does not match the reality. Ministers are claiming to be targeting disadvantaged students, but their scheme provides no support to cover tuition fees which will make accessing this incredible opportunity impossible for many students
“But until now it has been an opportunity disproportionately enjoyed by those from the most privileged backgrounds. The Turing Scheme has welcomed a breadth of successful applications from schools and colleges across the country, reflecting our determination that the benefits of Global Britain are shared by all.
“By strengthening our partnerships with the finest institutions across the globe, the Turing Scheme delivers on the Government’s post-Brexit vision, and helps a new generation grasp opportunities beyond Europe’s borders.”
Matt Western, the Shadow Universities Minister, said: “The Conservatives’ rhetoric on the Turing Scheme does not match the reality. Ministers are claiming to be targeting disadvantaged students, but their scheme provides no support to cover tuition fees which will make accessing this incredible opportunity impossible for many students.
“Boris Johnson has yet again created confusion for students and chaos for providers by breaking his promise to keep the UK in the Erasmus+ programme. Subjecting the Turing Scheme to future spending decisions will create financial uncertainty for organisations and young people. It’s being reduced to the status of Erasmus minus.
“Ministers must ensure the Turing Scheme maintains the UK’s status as an attractive study destination for international students, protecting and promoting our global standing.”