“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”

So wrote Erasmus, the Renaissance scholar after whom the EU’s student exchange scheme is named. Those who know about education were adamant of the need for the UK’s youth still to be able to take part in the scheme after Brexit. The Liberal Democrats supported this in Parliament, but the Tories voted the amendment down. However, on the 16th January 2020, everyone was reassured because during prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson said: “There is no threat to the Erasmus scheme. We will continue to participate. UK students will continue to be able to enjoy the benefits of exchanges with our European friends and partners, just as they will continue to be able to come to this country.” When criticised for not allowing the amendment, Mr Johnson said the MP was “talking through the back of his neck”. The Universities Minister later claimed the amendment was “game-playing by opposition parties”.

Now the government has released details of its proposed Turing Scheme to replace the Erasmus+ programme, to ridicule from educators and youth groups. A brief analysis of the different schemes reveals that the Turing Scheme is very much the poor relation: providing no tuition fee support and no travel support except for a small portion of students. Maximum living support available through Turing is £140 lower than through Erasmus+, threatening to price out many of the most financially disadvantaged young people. UK Schools funding through the schemes, often neglected in Erasmus-related discourse, is a whopping 75% lower under Turing than in 2020. The Young European Movement branded the Turing Scheme “totally inadequate” and backed calls for the UK government to negotiate re-entry into Erasmus+ immediately.

It was Alan Turing himself who wrote: “Unless in communicating …one says exactly what one means, trouble is bound to result.” Erasmus also observed : “Man’s mind is so formed that it is far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth.”

Jay Mercer, Horsham East Candidate for the Liberal Democrats and education professional, said: “Our young people’s education is much safer within the tried and trusted Erasmus scheme than steered by the hand of a lying Prime Minister.”

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