The Brexit Deal and Ghent University in 2021: Horizon Europe, Erasmus+ and More

(15-01-2021) What does the Brexit deal mean for Ghent University employees in 2021? We put together an overview of the current state of affairs with regards to Horizon Europe, Erasmus+ and structural and investment funds.

Last updated: JANUARY 2021

The Brexit Deal is a fact! What does this mean for you?

On the 24th of December 2020, the UK and EU negotiators reached a deal on the future relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit. This accord came into effect on the 1st of January 2021 and is therefore already regulates UK-EU relations. Below, we will sum up the implications this has for Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe.

Horizon Europe

The Brexit deal dictates that the UK and the EU have agreed that the UK will be able to participate in Horizon Europe as a so-called ‘third country’. This means that UK partners will be able to participate in Horizon Europe research projects, most likely in a similar manner as Norwegian partners were able to participate in H2020. Research cooperation between Ghent University employees and their British counterparts will therefore be able to count on funding by means of Horizon Europe projects. More negotiations are planned in the coming months on whether or not the British will be able to participate in the entirety of Horizon Europe. At time of publication, most parties involved, the Flemish government among them, agree that participation in “just about all parts” is the most likely outcome.

Structural and investment funds such as Interreg

The UK has decided to no longer participate in EU structural and investment funds. This means that funding for collaborations with British partners in Interreg programmes will no longer be available for projects initiated after 1/1/2021. The Interreg programmes linked to British regions, such as Interreg 2 Seas, will therefore have to shift their focus in 2021.


The UK has decided to end its participation in the Erasmus+ programme. This decision carries great consequences for both Erasmus+ exchange projects and other collaborative educational projects. There are, however, some exceptions and planned courses of action for both temporary and permanent solutions.

The collaborative projects that were started prior to 31/12/2020, will continue under the current conditions, as if the UK was still a part of the EU, until the end of their funding contract. It is currently also being examined whether the same process could be used to extend ongoing yearly funding contracts for classical Erasmus+ student and personnel mobility, both on the British and Flemish side, in order to be able to guarantee the continuation of grant payments for mobility to the UK in the 2021-2022 academic year.

The new Erasmus+ 2021-27 cycle also brings a limited set of opportunities for participation in collaborative projects and exchange programmes in British universities, specifically those Actions (specific activities and projects that are funded under the auspices of Erasmus+) currently open to or will in the near future be opened up to universities from non-Programme countries, the so-called Partner Countries, among which the UK will count itself from 1/1/2021 onward. The conditions for participation of non-Programme countries differ per type of Action. More news will undoubtedly follow once the new Erasmus+ 2021-27 cycle is launched with all its programme details in the coming weeks.

Turing Scheme

Though the UK has withdrawn from Erasmus+ and has in one fell swoop cast the future of student exchanges between the UK and the EU into obscurity, they are, however, working on a short-term alternative: the so-called Turing Scheme.

100m pounds of funding has been promised for this international exchange programme, good for some 35000 exchanges – so it is by no means the case that the UK will close its borders to EU-students. However, even though precious little is known about how the Turing Scheme will be put into practice, it has already been made clear that the Scheme will only fund outgoing British students and that it will have a global scope which will not be limited to the EU.

Besides this, it is also still unclear how tuitions will be arranged among the different participating institutions. Extensive negotiations will undoubtedly take place between the individual participating institutions in the coming years.


The end of the 2020 negotiations by no means mean the end of EU-UK negotiations regarding higher education and research. Both what has already been agreed on with regards to Horizon Europe and what can still be agreed upon in the future regarding to Erasmus+ – e.g. after the next change of power following future elections – is subject to political evolution. The Brexit deal was written using an explicitly open-ended vocabulary, making future adjustments and additions fully possible.

Want to know more?

Contact the following people for any questions you might have on the subject:

- Mathijs Vandenbroucke, Policy Officer, European Research and Innovation Policy, DOZA/EU-cel, tel. 09 264 7036, (H2020 and Horizon Europe). 

- Geneviève Cochez, Policy Officer, DOWA/Dept. Internationalisation, tel. 09 264 70 16 (Erasmus Mobility).

- Andries Verspeeten, Policy Officer, DOWA/Dept. Internationalisation, tel. 09 264 7018 (Erasmus Projects).