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A no-deal will be a disaster for students who can’t afford to study abroad

The EU’s Erasmus program has long offered financial support for Brits looking for continental experience, but in the case of a no-deal Brexit, that support may come to an end

Studying abroad is critical for some subjects, and many language degrees view a semester abroad as mandatory in order to graduate – but what if you can’t afford it?

Of all students who do study abroad, 53 per cent of them do so through a funded scheme, such as Erasmus. But British students on the Erasmus programme, which provides them with monthly financial support while abroad, are threatened by a no deal Brexit, prompting concerned students to start a #supportstudyabroad campaign urging the UK Government to continue to fund UK students studying abroad even with a no deal Brexit.

Universities UK, which launched the campaign, states the advantages of the scheme. Students who have studied abroad are 19 per cent more likely to gain a first class degree and are 10 per cent more likely to be in ‘graduate’ jobs six months after graduation, it claims.

It warns that without this funding, 17,000 UK students will miss out on opportunities to study abroad next year because of funding being pulled in the case of no deal.

“The government has committed to avoiding this in the withdrawal agreement – why not in the case of no deal Brexit?” the group says.

Kerri Logan, a University of Manchester graduate who took advantage of Erasmus explains why it was so important.

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“Erasmus gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in, and understand, Spanish culture in a way that can’t be taught in a classroom,” she says. “Both my parents and grandparents didn’t attend University. I relied on grants, bursaries and part-time work to fund my studies and without Erasmus funding, my year abroad would have been impossible.”

Erasmus connects UK Universities with European Universities, offering space for students to continue their studies in a foreign environment. The popularity of spending a semester studying abroad has grown steadily over the past ten years with 16,000 UK students choosing to pack up their bags in 2016-17.

The University of Cambridge claims that embracing other languages and cultures is more important than ever in combatting stereotypes and xenophobia, while a CBI Education and Skills survey showed that companies crave graduates with a rich understanding of other cultures.

Funding being cut means people from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to be able to afford studying abroad while that opportunity will be closed off for others who cannot. With a loss of funding, Kerri Logan fears that others in her situation would be unable to gain from the value of studying abroad, which will hardly help the push towards a more diverse work force, open to those from different backgrounds.

Kerri continues: “I would have graduated at a huge disadvantage to students from middle-class families who could afford to fund their travel and, through no fault of my own, would have been entering a work-force lacking in skills and experience learned through Erasmus.”

And another aspect of studying abroad was on display during the People’s Vote March, earlier this month where one couple in particular stole the spotlight with their placard reading: “1 in 4 Erasmus students meet their life partner abroad… don’t stand in the way of love”.

In the short term, the government has committed to supporting Erasmus students until 2020.

“In the event that the UK leaves the EU with no agreement in place, the government has guaranteed that it will cover the payment of awards to UK applicants for all successful Erasmus+ bids submitted before the end of 2020,” a Department for Education spokesperson told The Guardian. But the long-term effects of funding being pulled from study abroad schemes

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