The Implications of a (No-Deal) Brexit for Ghent University – Part 2: Erasmus+ and Studying Abroad

(06-11-2020) In part 2 we examine what is going to change for Ghent University students and employees after Brexit regarding Erasmus+ and studying abroad.

 

The central theme of Brexit is getting out from under a perceived European yoke and winning back sovereignty. This idea is perhaps reflected most strongly in the cessation of the free movement of persons between the UK and the Schengen Area, but also by the casting of doubt, in no uncertain terms, on the fruits of decades worth of academic and research collaboration and exchange with the continent.

What do Ghent University students and employees have to take into account in 2021 with regards to Erasmus+ and studying abroad? A short overview.

Erasmus+

Go It Alone

Just like all other members of the Erasmus+ Network, Ghent University organizes any number of annual exchange projects for students, academics and administrative and technical staff (ATS) and receives funding for this from the Erasmus+ programme. The UK has confirmed its participation until the end of the current programme cycle. But, starting in 21’-22’, further participation is not all guaranteed.

The latest Erasmus+ reports regarding the AY 17’-18’ show that the EU sent roughly twice as many participants to the UK as the UK sent Brits to the continent, which is unique among participating members. There are many possible explanations for this: British top universities are among the highest-scoring in the world when it comes to international rankings, they invest heavily in internationalization and have a strong international community; positions in programmes at these universities are therefore coveted.

This state of affairs is, however, unacceptable for many British policy makers. The Erasmus Programme was founded with the principal objective of creating a European identity among young people and to promote European cooperation and mobility, an objective which is contrary to the ideals of the go-it-alone course of the Johnson cabinet. The mainland is perceived as having much to gain from exchange with a higher education center of expertise such as the UK, while this is much less case the other way around.

Though nothing has been officially decided as of yet, it is definitely within the realm of possibilities that the UK will leave Erasmus+ and, like the Swiss, create its own British exchange programme modelled on Erasmus but whose course is entirely determined by the UK.

Consequences

The first likely consequence is that EU-citizens will no longer have a privileged position when it comes to getting hold of the available positions for exchange students, academics and ATS. The process of going to the UK by means of an exchange programme will therefore, in some sense, be made more difficult.

Besides this, it is clear that an exchange will become a more expensive endeavor than is now the case. As was mentioned in Part 1, everyone must now get a visa, which is an additional cost of roughly £300. Besides this, the Erasmus grant for students would be canceled in a scenario wherein the UK exits Erasmus+ and it is quite unclear whether the UK would offer anything similar to exchange students from the continent in a possible British exchange scheme. Also in this scenario, students will have to take into account additional costs such as possible enrollment fees at British universities.

All these things form large barriers to students that do not have the means to combine the fixed costs of an exchange with being able to live without income for a number of months up to a complete year. More information is available on the website of Universities UK regarding enrollment fees and other important issues regarding European students that wish to come to the UK through an exchange programme.

Conversely, it is unclear what the situation will be like for Brits that want to come to Europe for an exchange. Naturally, Brexit will not make exchanges impossible. But, if Erasmus+ no longer applies to the UK, exchanges will have to take place through other, sometimes less robust exchange agreements which will, in many cases, only be hashed out in a post-Brexit world. What this means for timing, available positions and enrollment fees is, as of now, still unclear.

In closing, Erasmus Mundus joint Master Programmes will also be impacted. These prestigious master’s programmes could suddenly fall into a legal grey area in case they are organized by a university consortium that includes a UK institution. The EU is, however, planning to offer non-European institutes more room within the programme, starting in 21’-22’, which could be a temporary solution for British universities. But, as before, more news will be available soon. Additional information regarding Brexit and the Erasmus Programme is available on the website of Erasmus+ and this short report on the issue by the British Parliament.

Are you an employee of or a student at Ghent University and do you have any questions regarding the impact of Brexit on Erasmus+ or any other exchange projects? Please contact our International Relations Office in DOWA via secretariaatAIB@UGent.be.