Turing programme will fail disadvantaged young people

Amy Hubber, project support officer, Mobilise Public
Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Drowned out by the noise of Brexit and the pandemic, the government’s broken promise to remain a member of the Erasmus+ overseas study scheme has been largely overlooked. Yet, the failure to reach an agreement regarding its membership of the scheme post-Brexit, continues to have a devastating impact on young people.

Amy Hubber: “Contrary to government rhetoric, the Turing programme fails to be as inclusive as its predecessor”
Amy Hubber: “Contrary to government rhetoric, the Turing programme fails to be as inclusive as its predecessor”

Erasmus+ offered placements for young people, their teaching staff and youth workers, to travel, gain new skills and vital experiences, and boost their employability. Erasmus+ Youth in Action permitted groups of young people from different countries to meet, live together and work on projects outside of a school environment. For example, Ibrahim and Ibrahim, two 18-year-olds from London describe their time on the Find Yourself programme, in a remote village of Zapotok, Slovenia as “one of the best experiences ever”. Arguably, they did find themselves as Ibrahim K reports: “I got an idea of who I want to be, what I want to do”. He adds: “Since I came here, I’ve been realising that a lot of the habits I had back home were bad. Now, being in the middle of a forest, I reached the mentality that it’s not impossible to stop. I think I became a little bit stronger, mentally.”

In its place, the government has implemented the Turing programme. Despite former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s ambition for the programme to “expand opportunities to study abroad and see more students from all backgrounds benefit from the experience”, it ultimately falls short of the mark. The key message is embedded within the word “students” as the Turing programme only applies to universities, colleges, and schools. There is no longer a provision for non-formal education, such as youth clubs, and therefore placements like the one Ibrahim and Ibrahim took part in are no longer possible. Also, it does not offer any reciprocal opportunities for young people to come to the UK. Therefore, contrary to government rhetoric, the Turing programme fails to be as inclusive as its predecessor as the number of young people eligible for placements are limited.

Critics also point to the programme being conceived hastily and with minimal consultation. The British Youth Council are calling on the government to address the ¤1bn loss of funding due to Brexit. The UK Youth Parliament and UK Young Ambassadors are among the 4,800 UK projects who face significant funding challenges since the UK’s withdrawal.

Unlike its predecessor, the Turing scheme also doesn’t cover tuition fees, so there is no longer a financial incentive for other countries to send and receive students, and the prospects of having to self-fund and comply with new visa requirements can be daunting for students abroad.

UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds are offered a maximum of £490 per month (worth around ¤573), roughly the same as under Erasmus+, alongside other forms of additional funding for passports, visas, and insurance. However, it is unclear that this will match or exceed the price of tuition fees as fees vary depending on university and country. Therefore, a decline in reciprocity of numbers can be expected.

The Turing programme is only applicable to those enrolled in education and therefore is not accessible to all young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who need it most. Similarly, the Turing programme is delivered with a significant loss of funding and is less accommodating to international students and youth groups.

The Turing programme is not a suitable alternative to Erasmus+, which has had an invaluable impact on the lives of young people across Europe. Following a series of governmental U-turns, the Turing programme should be considered for revision.

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