EU has enormously benefitted UK universities and students

Written by Christina Slade on 2 August 2017

University graduates | Photo credit: Press Association

Universities, like all cultural institutions, thrive on networks. They have always been global, they have never respected national borders. Connections into Europe fostered by the European Union have been enormously valuable for the UK. 

Although the number of UK students with a period abroad has been growing at a steady rate in recent years, the UK's rates of participation, seven per cent from 2014-2015, are low by international standards. 

The EU's Erasmus+ programme forms an integral part of the UK's outward mobility landscape - as much as 55 per cent of mobility takes place through Erasmus+ and the success of the programme, at least in part, can be seen through the fact that more than two-thirds of UK student mobility takes place in an EU country. 


The European Commission's latest figures show that in the 2015-2016 academic year, 9836 UK students studied abroad on Erasmus+ and 6608 UK students worked abroad on Erasmus+. The UK also hosted 30,183 students under the Erasmus+ scheme in 2015-2016. 

Mobility enhances the prospects of all graduates, but more dramatically so for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Research published in the 'Gone international: mobility works' report by Universities UK International shows that UK graduates who were mobile during their degree were less likely to unemployed (3.7 per cent compared to 4.9 per cent) and to earn five per cent more than non-mobile peers. 

Erasmus+ is not simply about student mobility. 2015-2016 figures show that 1700 staff from UK institutions used Erasmus+ to teach abroad while 1260 travelled abroad for training; these figures have increased 88 per cent since 2007. 

It is clear that if the UK government does not or chooses not to secure continued participation in these programmes that it could and, in my opinion, must replace the lost funding domestically. 

Switzerland's recent experience of creating similar programs could both provide an example and an opportunity to learn lessons for the UK and the EU in trying to do so.


About the author

Christina Slade is Vice Chancellor of Bath Spa University 

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