Weekly news roundup: UK launches Erasmus replacement, and Ireland reveal HE strategy

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
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This week saw the UK announce details of its new international exchange programme, the Turing scheme. 

Designed to replace Erasmus after Brexit, the government say the scheme will allow students to take part in exchange programmes in more countries, with more support. But will it live up to the highly respected Erasmus programme?

Elsewhere, Chinese students travelling to the US are facing visa delays, and the Irish government announce their latest higher education strategy.

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup. 

UK considers lowering fees for domestic students

The UK treasury is said to be considering lowering the costs of tuition fees for university students in an effort to tackle the rising costs of higher education.

Alternative plans, including limiting student numbers by introducing minimum entry requirements (MERs) in higher education and using GCSEs in admissions requirements, are also being considered. 

The recent Augar review recommended cutting tuition fees from £9,250 a year to £7,500 per year for home students, in order to reduce Treasury dependence on loans. Universities, who will be most affected by this loss of income, have argued that they will be unfairly affected by funding cuts.

The use of MERs is also deeply controversial, with many arguing that students from lower-income backgrounds will suffer the most. 

There are no planned fee cuts for international students. 

The UK government has also set out its plans for the new Turing scheme, which will replace the current Erasmus exchange programme. 

Students will receive between £335 and £380 a month towards living costs under the new scheme, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds receiving more. 

The plan is to fund 35,000 students to take part in a variety of exchanges, from international work placements to university study. The Turing programme will allow students to partake in exchanges across the world, rather than just in Europe. 

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said that the scheme was “levelling up in action, as the scheme seeks to help students of all income groups from across the country experience fantastic education opportunities in any country they choose”.

Chinese students travelling to US face visa delays

Chinese students wishing to travel to study in the USA are suffering from visa delays which could prevent them entering the country in the autumn. 

An online petition set up to raise awareness of what it calls the “Chinese student visa crisis for the 2021-22 school year” complains of “thousands” of backlogged F-1 visa applications.

It has garnered nearly 500 signatures, and calls for signatories to reach out to local representatives in the US in an effort to solve the issue. 

“Even if schools/universities decide to fully return to on-campus learning this  fall, most Chinese students will not be able to obtain their visas on time before they can travel to the US,” the petition reads.

“Without F-1 visa processing for Chinese students, the disappearance of Chinese students on American campuses in the 2021-2022 academic year will be an imminent crisis. The paying consumers of American international education will likely choose other more welcoming destination countries, such as the UK and Canada.”

Ireland reveal HE strategy

The Irish government has pledged to prioritise Irish relations with the UK and Europe, according to their latest higher education strategy.

The plan, which covers the years 2021-2023, aims to address talent, innovation, inclusion, governance, and capacity. 

It sets out five targets, which include: becoming a leading knowledge economy; developing an updated strategic framework for international education and research; advancing partnership with the EU; enhancing cooperation between the North/South; and fostering “deeper connections” with UK partners.

Speaking to The Irish Times, minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris said the department has “ambitious goals to reform our higher education sector, to grow our research and innovation system and to develop the skills agenda.”

“In post-pandemic Ireland, we will need a new international strategy to help us grow our education, science and research sectors.”

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