Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has joined calls to keep UK universities in the Erasmus programme after Brexit, describing the scheme as integral to developing “skills, jobs, and investment in our towns and cities”.
He joins the metro mayors of Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool City, as well as Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, in demanding that the UK stay in the European university exchange programme.
The demand comes after a recent YouGov poll indicated that 61% of British people – including 57% of Conservative voters and 54% of Leave voters – strongly support remaining in Erasmus.
The UK’s role in the Erasmus exchange scheme is not currently being treated as a priority association in Brexit negotiations and Britain will leave the scheme when it exits the EU at the end of this year. This is despite the fact EU membership is not necessary to take part in the Erasmus programme.
Research has shown that students who participate in an Erasmus exchange are more likely to gain a higher grade than their peers and are 44% more likely to hold a managerial position ten years after graduating.
In 2018, the UK sent 17,084 students abroad as part of the Erasmus scheme, making up half of the total number of British students who study abroad.
Setting out his proposals, Gordon Brown said: “As the polling shows, UK-wide we are united in our concern about how best to take on the coming economic crisis.
“Our poll suggests that the public has transcended the Leave-Remain divide and that the issue is not whether your region is for or against Europe but whether you are for good jobs and for a policy for full employment.
“Enabling world-class education will be key to maintaining and developing the jobs and skills we need which make our global links vis Erasmus more vital than ever to our regional economies.
“The YouGov poll shows people understand the pragmatic value of cooperating with Europe on learning, skills and developing employment opportunities. Erasmus in particular means skills, jobs, and investment in our towns and cities across our regions.”
Jamie Driscoll, Dan Jarvis, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham, the mayors of Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool City Regions respectively, have all previously demanded the government save the Erasmus programme.
Liverpool John Moores university alone works with over 100 Erasmus partners across Europe, allowing hundreds of its students to study abroad every year.
Liverpool City Mayor Steve Rotherham: ”The Erasmus programme has provided countless opportunities for our young people to develop new skills, employment prospects and real-world experience that they never would have got otherwise.
“Leaving the scheme would leave our regions much poorer, in terms of the opportunities it offers our young people, our universities and our businesses.
“Were we to turn our back on it, we would be robbing our young people of the chance to see the world, develop valuable life skills and the opportunity to study at fantastic universities around Europe.”
The Royal Society, the British Academy, Universities UK and The Russell Group have all also called on the government to keep the UK in the Erasmus scheme.
Gordon Brown recently voiced his support for also remaining in the EU Horizon Programme in order to drive a post-Covid economic recovery. With a budget of €80.9bn this year, the Horizon scheme funds groundbreaking medical, environmental and scientific research.
A previous poll has shown that 84% of EU students said they “definitely would not” study in the UK if charged the same fees as international students.