NUS (National Union of Students) have launched a new campaign to help save the Erasmus programme, which faces an uncertain future now that the UK has officially left the European Union.
Initially founded in 1987, this scheme has enabled many generations of higher education students to study, work or volunteer abroad. It has arguably created an ‘exchange culture’, with both British students going to other European countries to further their studies and EU students coming into the UK to become better acquainted with British culture.
Currently, the UK is due to leave the programme at the end of 2020, but NUS point out that there may still be time to act. One way that the Erasmus can survive the transition period is for the Government to sign an agreement in which the UK continues its participation as a non-EU, third-party member.
One such proposal, however, has already been rejected by MPs earlier this year. ‘New Clause 10’ was one of the suggested amendments to the Government’s Brexit Bill and it would have required the Government to seek continuing full membership of the ‘Erasmus+ education and youth programme’. It was voted down on the 8th of January, just a few weeks before the official Brexit day, sparking anger and strong feelings among many.
Only two days after the vote, Scram News launched a petition asking that MPs reconsider their decision; the petition, which is still ongoing, had already reached over 30,000 signatures after just one week.
Initiatives of this kind have received support since the early post-Brexit-referendum days, when, as the country was considering the implications of leaving the EU, the status of the Erasmus programme started to be questioned as well.
As early as July 2016, the hashtag #SaveErasmus was already popular on Twitter, and has since received endorsements from both the political and the academic world. The newest NUS campaign is thus the latest attempt to save a youth programme which is seen as crucial by many – both past Erasmus students and younger generations who aspire to be involved in it.
On their website, NUS are encouraging people to share their Erasmus stories, which will then appear under the hashtag #SaveErasmus. They also list three main reasons as to why ‘Erasmus+’ should be saved: its inclusiveness, since it enables students from all backgrounds to have meaningful experiences abroad; economic benefits, in terms of employability skills and work opportunities that might arise; finally, personal development, as a result of being exposed to different cultures.
Image source: Scram