A vote in the U.K. Parliament against seeking to stay in the European wide student abroad scheme Erasmus, has cast doubt on the U.K.’s future in it after Brexit.
Many students, graduates and alumni of the scheme took to social media this afternoon to share their disdain for the decision–particularly those in the LGBT community.
Parliament voted against the motion to change the European Union withdrawal, or “Brexit” bill, by 344 votes to 254.
The amendment, tabled by the Liberal Democrats, would have required the Government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education and youth programme.
The Erasmus scheme, run by the European Union, gives opportunities for students to study or gain work experience in a different European country while completing a degree.
A spokesperson for the Department of Edication told the Guardian:
“The government 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 this.
“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.”
Minister for Higher Education Chris Skidmore added on Twitter this amendment was “opposition game playing” and that it didn’t prevent the UK staying part of the scheme.
What does Erasmus mean for LGBT Students?
It’s a scheme that has particular value for LGBT students, says co-chair of National Student Pride Max Taylor:
“Ending the U.K.’s participation in the Erasmus scheme would be a particular loss for LGBT+ students. The opportunity to spend a year in an unfamiliar country is very appealing, as it relieves you of the character pressures you may face at home. It allows you to be in an environment where you have no limits to be yourself.”
Taylor points to how young students are on the Erasmus scheme at a crucial point in working out their identity, with many going at 19 or 20 years old:
“That’s a critical time for young LGBT+ people. For many, they will still be figuring out your sexuality, gender. Doing this at home can be difficult if you have to lead a double life with family or friends.
“On a year abroad, you don’t know anyone, and they don’t know you. It means for some; it is the first time you can shake hands and introduce yourself to like the person you are. It’s a unique experience.”
But the decision could go some way to damaging improvements in LGBT rights across Europe.
Max believes that when those who come from places in Europe where LGBT rights are not as strong as in the U.K., take what they learn about progress here back home:
“A founding idea of the Erasmus exchange was to be able to take some knowledge back to your home country with you.
“The U.K. is a global leader in LGBT rights, but leaving the exchange will weaken our power to project that to the young people from Poland and Hungary.
“They will lose the chance to take home with them lessons about our fight for equality if we don’t remain part of the exchange.”
Staying in the scheme and joining Horizon Europe, the EU’s next research scheme, which starts in January 2021, as an associated country could cost more than €7 billion (£6 billion), according to the Times Higher Education.
The decision by Parliament today not to seek any new Erasmus inclusion should not affect any current students. In an October update on Brexit the Erasmus +scheme say:
“Despite the circumstances of the withdrawal, all existing Erasmus+ and ESC projects that have a contract to deliver funded activities are advised to continue to do so.”
The National Union of Students has already confirmed to me they intend to campaign to keep the U.K. in any future Erasmus schemes. NUS Trans officer Eden Ladley says:
“NUS will step up our efforts in demonstrating the importance of the scheme to both the sector and the U.K. government. We are calling on the U.K. government to recognise the benefits of Erasmus and seek full association.
“My time as an Erasmus student in Paris allowed me to live in a major city of LGBT+ culture and activity that I could never have afforded without the Erasmus grant.
“The opportunity to experience a gay scene different to what I’d experienced in the U.K., building a friendship group of LGBT+ students from across the world and my first real relationship have been pivotal in shaping the person I am today.
“It is imperative that whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations opportunities for students to study abroad are maintained.”
Source: Forbes – Leadership