Brexit does not mean the end for study exchanges


Tanya Zhekova

No one really knows what exactly is going to happen when the UK finally leaves the EU, not even Theresa May herself. Naturally, the first concern for us students would be losing the opportunity to study (and work) in another EU country while receiving a financial grant and academic credit. I do not pretend to be Nostradamus, but based on common sense and mainly the recent experiences of other countries leaving Erasmus, there isn’t any reason to panic.

In 2014 Switzerland held a referendum on which the people voted for the re-introduction of quotas for EU migrants. After this decision the EU struck back and Switzerland was almost immediately kicked out of the Erasmus program. Did this mean all mobility to and from Switzerland was wiped out? Not really. The Swiss government quickly introduced a scheme called Swiss European Mobility Program, the conditions are almost the same as in Erasmus and so are the grants – 360 CHF per month for study and 420 CHF for a traineeship.

That means that if you are for studying French here in Glasgow and want to spend your year abroad in Genève, you will receive the same amount of money as someone going to Paris. That is, if you manage to survive on 420 CHF per month over there (as someone who spent the last year in Paris, I can confirm that prices in the French capital are not much better though).

Some will say, and rightfully so, that Erasmus is not just about university exchanges – there are many other opportunities in it. While this is true, a British student or young person actually benefits from much more opportunities than any of his European counterparts. Don’t believe it? Let’s see what the EU has on offer for Europeans and what the British council has for UK citizens.

Take study exchanges. The EU of course, offers its students access to the Erasmus scheme. Glasgow University is one of the most active in terms of Erasmus (almost 1000 people coming in and going per year) which makes me think that we all know the drill: with Erasmus you can go to one of 33 countries and territories in Europe for study. Last year the maximum amount received per month was 300 euro, but only for “expensive” countries like France. Most people got 250 euros/pm.

The British Council offers British students a range of study abroad schemes including scholarships to Mexico ($8,412 pesos per month + airfare), Japan (143,000 yen per month + airfare), Kuwait (accommodation, airfare, 200 KD/ month), China (accommodation, meals, no fee) as well as a Commonwealth scholarship (this year for Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Sri Lanka and South Pacific) which includes airfare, tuition and $500 USD/month. The British council is also managing Erasmus for the moment. This may be written off after finalizing Brexit, but nothing prevents the UK government from setting up its own scheme.

Teaching schemes  and traineeships will not cease to exist post Brexit either. The EU used to have a scheme called Comenius for placing young teachers in other EU countries. It was generous in terms of pay, but was discontinued in 2015. As per traineeships, any university student can do a traineeship instead of study exchange depending on the course and the grant is higher. I was an intern in France and got 400 euros/pm which is the maximum for our university – the study exchange people received about 300 euros/pm.

Almost all of my classmates became British Council teaching assistants in France, Spain, Latin America and Quebec. Payment is generally between 450 and 1700 US dollars per month depending on the country, for 20 working hours a week. Besides that there are other funded teaching opportunities in Japan, Brazil, Lesotho, China as well as internship placements like those offered by the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments, which are also paid.

What makes it easier than Erasmus is that you don’t have to search for a position – the positions are already there and you only need to apply. My biggest challenge in the Erasmus traineeship process was that I had to basically find a job in another country remotely without much support.

Young UK students have absolutely no reason to be worried about losing opportunities post Brexit. Perhaps there are fewer than for the rest of EU students, but as in the popular phrase from my country “where there’s a will, there is also a way.”


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