Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly has called upon Ireland to fill the void left by the UK’s departure from the Erasmus programme.
With the UK’s withdrawal confirmed following Brexit, Kelly – a long-time advocate of the initiative – urged Irish colleges to take advantage of the country’s new-found status: “16,000 EU students participate in an Erasmus in the UK every year. Now that the British are leaving the Erasmus programme, Irish third-level institutions have the opportunity to attract some of these numbers.
“We are now the biggest English speaking Erasmus destination, and we have top-quality education to offer across all disciplines”.
This stance is unsurprising, given the Ireland South MEP – also his party’s leader in the EU Parliament – voted to extend the programme for the 2021-2027 period with an increased budget.
Estimating that around “8,000 students” already come to Ireland for Erasmus every year, Kelly sees Brexit as an opportunity to attract a number for whom the UK is no longer an option.
He further extolled the virtues of the programme, which has had some nine million participants since it began more than 30 years ago: “Erasmus is about much more than education in the traditional sense. It helps to broaden the perspectives of participants and boosts employability, especially for those considering a career abroad. It fosters international relationships and boosts cultural awareness among students.”
He concluded by paying tribute to the Irish government for agreeing to fund Erasmus for any Northern Irish student who wishes to participate post-Brexit.
This, in Kelly’s view, offers some consolation to young people in this part of the UK. He lamented that those in England, Scotland and Wales will “no longer benefit from the brilliant opportunity offered by Erasmus”, despite overwhelmingly voting to remain.