THE Scottish Government has insisted an exchange scheme set up to replace Erasmus+ is denying educational opportunities to students which previous generations enjoyed.

A report by IFF Research has suggested British university students have been forced to abandon plans to study or work abroad due to issues with the Turing Scheme.

Many disadvantaged students have been deterred from participating in it amid uncertainty around funding. 

An evaluation of the first year of the Turing Scheme (2021-22) said universities had difficulty with the application process and many found the timing of funding outcomes “problematic”.

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Most higher education providers said they received the outcome of their funding applications in July – the summer holidays – and some felt this left “very little time” to prepare.

The Turing Scheme allows students from universities, colleges and schools in the UK to study and work in more than 160 countries and territories.

Scottish Government officials have said the recent findings show the scheme is failing to match the “breadth and scope” of the Erasmus+ programme, which proportionally more students from Scotland took part in than from any other part of the UK.

Reacting to the research, a spokesperson told The National: "The fact that students can no longer take part in the Erasmus scheme is one of the most damaging consequences of Brexit for Scotland’s universities and colleges.

“The programme had a major impact in Scotland. Proportionally more students from Scotland took part in Erasmus than from any other country in the UK, and proportionally more EU students came to Scotland on Erasmus than to anywhere else in the UK.

“This report makes clear that the UK Government’s replacement Turing Scheme fails to match the breadth and scope of Erasmus+, resulting in reduced opportunities for all our students, staff and young people, in particular our most disadvantaged groups.

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“Scotland rejected Brexit in 2016 and this report shows that young people are being denied educational opportunities open to generations before them.”

The Scottish Government has said it will continue to engage with the UK Government to make the scheme “better reflect the needs of Scotland”.

Officials are also continuing to work on a Scottish Education Exchange Programme pilot scheme which is understood to be on course for delivery this year.

It is a commitment in the Programme for Government 23/24 which states it would “prioritise placements for disadvantaged groups and further demonstrate our commitment to EU and global partnerships with schools, colleges and universities”.

The Scottish and Welsh governments issued a joint statement outlining their support for bespoke replacements to Erasmus+ in January 2021, but only the Welsh government has since delivered its own replacement scheme – called Taith.

Olivia Mackin, a third-year economics student at the University of Edinburgh, told The National in August that confusion over funding sources was impacting on students’ plans.

She told how her study abroad plans had to be changed because she didn’t know where funding would be coming from.

Government figures suggest 60% of the placements approved for funding from the scheme in the 2023/24 academic year were participants from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented groups.

The IFF report highlighted that participants taking a year abroad often needed to leave in July or August, before they knew whether financial support would be available.

It called on the Department for Education (DfE) to bring forward the application window and confirmation of outcome window and encourage providers to offer some funds to learners before placements start.

It added that the DfE should consider greater funding amounts for the most disadvantaged, who may not have additional funds to contribute.