MPs have backed the government in voting against a popular EU programme which for years has helped students to study in other European countries.
The future of the Erasmus study abroad scheme remains uncertain, after MPs have voted against New Clause 10 being read a second time by 344 votes to 254.
The clause would have required the government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasumus+ education and youth programme.
At least 53% of UK university students who learn abroad do so through the Erasmus scheme, which typically sees students spend a semester abroad at a university in the EU, while students from EU universities study at a UK university in return.
“Choosing to limit the future of young people; choosing to rob them of opportunities is one of the worst outcomes of Brexit,” tweeted Professor Tanja Bueltmann, who teaches migration and diaspora history at Northumbria university. “It is tragic and incomprehensible that anyone would support doing this to young people.”
She added: “Erasmus made me who I am. It allowed me, a working class student with no other means to enable a year abroad, to study at the [University] of Edinburgh.”
In 2016-17, more than 16,500 UK students participated in overseas programmes, while more than 31,700 EU nationals came to the UK.
The terms of the UK’s exit from the EU have still not been decided, so the future of the Erasmus scheme is not certain, but the latest vote suggests MPs are against negotiating full membership with the scheme.
Dr. Anna K. Bobak, a fellow at Stirling University, said: “Apparently continuing Erasmus is not a priority for the British Government after Brexit. Fostering student exchange, cultural diversity and widening horizons are not important enough.
“Erasmus is not just a ‘gap year’, it’s an enormous learning opportunity. What a shame.”
Former MP Luciana Berger said: “I gained so much from my Erasmus year – it was one of the best experiences and I learnt so much. Devastating to think the next generation of young people in our country won’t have access to the same opportunity.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said today it “is committed to continuing the academic relationship between the UK and the EU, including through the next Erasmus+ programme if it is in our interests to do so”.
“The vote last night does not change that,” he added.
“As we enter negotiations with the EU, we want to ensure that UK and European students can continue to benefit from each other’s world-leading education systems.”