The Turing Scheme
The new funding opportunity to replace the UK’s participation in Erasmus+
The UK’s new Turing Scheme opened for applications on 12th March. Developed to replace the UK’s participation in Erasmus+, the Turing Scheme is backed by £110 million and will provide opportunities for up to 35,000 students to undertake international placements from September 2021. The Scheme is open to all UK organisations from across the education and training sectors (higher education, further education and vocational education and training, and schools).
The recently launched Turing Scheme website hails it as ‘truly international’: Whereas Erasmus+ covered placements across the EU and some non-EU countries that paid to participate, the Turing Scheme will enable placements to be anywhere as long as Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice is adhered to.
A further advantage claimed by the Turing scheme is its emphasis on widening access; this forms a component of the government’s pledge to ‘level up’ the UK economy. Indeed, one of the four stated objectives of the scheme is that it will widen participation and support social mobility across the UK’ . University students from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive an additional £110 per month to their cost of living grant and will also receive funding towards travel costs. The scheme will also fund up to 100% of actual costs for support directly related to their additional needs.
The scheme is also proposed to align with the government’s vision of a ‘global Britain’. It is anticipated that the scheme will enable organisations to enhance their existing international ties and forge new relationships around the world. Correspondingly, assessors will be evaluating the degree to which applicants make a convincing case that their project will strengthen UK – international relations and that there are robust co-operation and communication strategies between the participating organisations.
As might be expected, alongside this very positive narrative which asserts the advantages of the Turing Scheme over Erasmus+, exists a reasonable dose of scepticism and criticism. The UK’s devolved nations in particular rallied hard for the UK’s continued participation in Erasmus+ and there has been palpable disappointment and anger that this participation will cease . The opportunities posed by Erasmus+ have been seen as significant enough by the government in the Republic in Northern Ireland, that it is going to continue funding Northern Ireland’s participation. Wales on the other hand has announced that it will establish its own version of Erasmus+ which fills the gaps left by the Turing Scheme .
One of the major objections to the scheme concerns its lack of reciprocity. Erasmus+ provided funding for exchanges between participating countries. Thus, it was mutually beneficial for all parties involved – mobility and all of the cultural and economic advantages that it brings were bi-directional. Conversely, the Turing Scheme will only fund outbound students. It remains to be seen whether this will pose difficulties for institutions as they seek to develop the necessary partnerships to write a bid.
It has been highlighted that the purported global nature of the Turing scheme should not be seen as an advantage over Erasmus+ at all. Whilst the list of Erasmus+ programme countries is limited to EU Member States and six non-EU countries, there is also a reasonably extensive list of Partner Countries able to participate in certain actions and under specific conditions. Partner countries include Armenia, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the Territory of Russia . As pointed out in a blog by Professor David Carter, Head of the International Study and Language Institute at the University of Reading: ‘Most higher education institutions win so-called KA103 project grants to fund mobility within participating countries and many also apply for KA107 money to fund worldwide mobility . The Turing Scheme will open up the possibility of mobility to English speaking countries, but consequently poses questions about the future of modern language learning in the UK.
The list of criticisms and concerns levied at the Turing Scheme goes on: It is too narrow in focus , the budget is potentially not large enough , it abandons key elements of the Erasmus programme beyond student exchange .
In addition to these fundamental issues and concerns about the new Turing Scheme, exists a much more short-term and logistical concern for UK universities: That is the issue of how to put together a convincing and competitive proposal before the deadline date of 9th April. Applicants have been given less than a month to prepare and write a far from straightforward application.
It will be interesting to observe how the implementation of the Turing Scheme plays out: In the short-term, what will the profile of funded universities look like and will aspirations towards widening participation be realised? In the longer-term, what will the benefits be at an individual, institutional, and broader societal level? Perhaps the question of how any benefits differ from those that would be felt as a result of continued participation in Erasmus+ will be more difficult to answer.
If you would like further information on the Turing scheme, or you are preparing a bid and are interested in seeking assistance, please get in touch.
 Turing scheme to open up global study and work opportunities - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
 Turing Scheme | UK's Global Programme to Study & Work Abroad | Home (turing-scheme.org.uk)
 About the Turing Scheme | About | Turing Scheme (turing-scheme.org.uk)
 UK devolved nations: "loss of Erasmus is huge blow" (thepienews.com)
 Wales sets up its own Erasmus programme | Education | The Guardian
 Participating countries | Erasmus+ (erasmusplus.org.uk)
 Five questions to ask about the Turing scheme - HEPI
 The Brexit deal was astonishingly bad, and every day the evidence piles up | Brexit | The Guardian