A civic campaign to rejoin Erasmus

The EU may have closed the door (for now) on Scotland and Wales rejoining the world’s best educational exchange programme but some 300 who attended our latest webinar last night heard calls for the campaign to redouble its efforts and reach out to England where many are just as angry at the UK Government’s decision.

Mary Senior, STUC president and Scotland official of the Universities & Colleges Union (UCU), a keynote speaker, urged civic Scotland to join forces with its Welsh counterpart in lobbying the UK and EU to reverse Westminster’s decision to leave Erasmus-Plus – and the UK Government’s plans for a poor alternative, one-way, under-funded Turing scheme.

Mary, backed by Hywel Ceri Jones, architect of the original Erasmus scheme back in the 1980s, said the civil society scheme should involve unions and employers bodies but also schools, colleges, unis, parent associations, student unions, apprentices, adult education institutes and others – reaching out to their equivalents in England. “We need to challenge the perception that Erasmus is a middle-class perk,: she said, pointing to the many apprentices and young workers who had taken part. Turing, she added, was simply “treating international students as cash cows.”

Such a campaign, she added, had recently been discussed by representatives from the TUC, STUC, WTUC and Northern Ireland section of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). It won backing from Hywel and the many attendees at the webinar and comes in the wake of the letter from more than 100 MEPs urging the EU toi readmit Scotland to a scheme that has attracted 10m and is expanding. by 2027, said Hywel, it will have reached 14m.

Julius Lajtha, YEM president, also urged a pan-European campaign among students and others and said Scotland’s political parties were being asked to put a return to Erasmus in their #Holyrood21 election manifestos – echoing a demand already made by EMiS.

Both Anton Muscatelli, principal, and Rachel Sandison, vice-principal, of Glasgow University, one of the UK’s biggest contributors to and beneficiaries of (by way of students) Erasmus, praised the scheme as “the gateway to Scotland” that drew on the Scottish people’s openness to other countries – going back to the medieval period in Glasgow Uni’s case and reflected in Scotland’s disproportionate presence in European science and research. “if arrangements for rejoining were possible and affordable Glasgow would be advocating for it,” said Sir Anton.

If you missed it you can watch the entire webinar here: https://youtu.be/B9OsR4PfFCw