We must fund study abroad programmes for the benefit of Britain, Deal or No Deal

On January 29th UK government confirmed that if continued participation in the Erasmus+ programme could not be secured in the event of a No Deal Brexit, there will be no national alternative to enable students to go abroad.

While this might not sound dramatic at first, it is a decision that will impact hundreds of thousands of Brits. Every year, 17,000 UK students study abroad through Erasmus+, and since 1987 over 600,000 have done so. 

Research shows that students who go abroad get better degrees and better jobs. They are 19% more likely to gain a first-class degree, 20% less likely to be unemployed, and more likely to be in graduate jobs with higher salaries just six months after graduating. Furthermore, this impact is even more pronounced for students from less advantaged backgrounds. Erasmus+ students are also half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad.

More research is needed to know exactly why, but this is probably because going abroad encourages students to develop new skill sets in a short amount of time, growing them both personally and professionally. These skills, and the ability to learn them on short notice, are desperately needed in the emerging knowledge economy.

Even more importantly, students who go abroad build professional, personal, and academic networks on a global scale; in other words, on the scale that is needed to fulfil the government’s ambitious vision of a global post-Brexit Britain. By going abroad during their degree, students position themselves to enjoy international careers and, through links forged while abroad, become an essential part of global Britain. It’s no coincidence that Erasmus+ experiences are often described in transformative terms: Erasmus+ alumna Simmone McClean described her experience studying abroad as a mother as something that “changed [her] forever, for the better”.

Erasmus+ also internationalises UK campuses and towns. Having students and staff from across Europe in UK classrooms and cities helps foster a spirit of internationalisation at home and all the benefits this brings. Erasmus+ means that even students that do not leave the UK can experience different cultures, perspectives, and an international curriculum. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the UK continues to collaborate with partners across the world. 

These are a few of the reasons why we launched the #SupportStudyAbroad campaign, asking students who have taken the plunge and studied abroad to share their stories and let the government know why Erasmus+ and programmes like it are so important to the UK. The campaign asks everyone to tweet and share photos from their time abroad, and to reflect on the positive impact the experience has had on them. Committing to funding and supporting study abroad programs is not only important to students – it is essential to the very idea of a global Britain.

This blog was written by Catriona Hanks, Outward Student Mobility Lead, and Katherine Allinson, Policy Researcher.

Our team


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