It may surprise some Orkney News readers from outwith Orkney that our islands have the presence of three major universities: University of the Highlands & Islands, Heriot Watt University and Robert Gordon University.
The three universities produce research which is internationally recognised as excellent. Students attend who come from Orkney but also from across the world especially the EU.
The benefits to Orkney have never been accurately measured and may never be but the students bring an extra boost to an economy which had become increasingly reliant on tourism. The reputation of Orkney as a place of quality education, skills and research cannot be underestimated.
A great deal of this has been made possible due to ERASMUS. So what is it?
Erasmus+, as it is today began in its current form in 2014. It provides a range of European Union (EU) funding streams that have existed since 2007, such as the Socrates Programme and the Lifelong Learning Programme.
It provides funding for education, training and sport, with a particular focus on youth work, but it also provides funding for activities aimed at all ages. The EU sees these programmes as a means of addressing socio-economic issues that Europe may face like unemployment and social cohesion. [House of Commons Library]
In 2014 Erasmus+ paid out €112million in the UK for research and by 2017 this had risen to €145million.
31,243 students came to the UK to pursue study and training due to ERASMUS+ in the 2016 tranche.
And it works both ways because thousands of students, at different levels of study and training have used ERASMUS+ to take up options in the EU countries: 10,790 in 2017.
ERASMUS+ has been one of the most effective programmes initiated by the EU.
The UK Government promised to underwrite funding which had been agreed that was due to continue after Brexit and UK citizens were still being encouraged to continue to apply for funding under Erasmus+ in 2020.
The next cycle of funding begins in 2021 but the UK Government has pulled out of the ERASMUS scheme, however, ” the projects successfully bid for during the current programmes will continue to receive EU funding for the full duration of the project, including those where funding runs beyond 2020 and the end of the transition period.”
The UK Government ” remains open to considering participation in some elements of the next Erasmus+ programme, provided it is in the UK’s interest to do so. This does not include the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) programme.”
Here is a video from January 2020 where it seems the ERASMUS+ scheme is safe but with the proviso – ‘if it is in our interests to do so’.
Leaving the world leading ERASMUS+ scheme, will cost in terms of lost opportunities for students (of all ages), for youth groups, for sport and for research. It will have lasting damage to the Orkney economy as future funding will go elsewhere – as will the students.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame