The Turing Scheme was established in January 2021 to replace Erasmus+GUILLAUME PÉRIGOIS/UNSPLASH

It has been just over a year since the government’s departure from Erasmus+ and the establishment of the replacement Turing Scheme. 

While failing to provide funding for students coming to the UK, as Erasmus+ did, the Turing Scheme aims to provide funding for UK students to travel to countries across the world rather than just the EU. 

In addition, the Turing Scheme will "target students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas which did not previously have many students benefiting from Erasmus+." 

Speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday, Baroness Barran said there were "41,000 applications for the scheme this year. That compares with around 16,500 under Erasmus+ in 2019-20."

She continued: "Forty-eight per cent of those placements are from students from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to thirty-seven percent under Erasmus."

However, students from Cambridge have faced many difficulties with the Turing Scheme. They questioned its claims to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The problem is that because the Turing Scheme aims to finance travels across the world, rather than just Europe as Erasmus+ did, the funding available for each student is substantially reduced. 

Dr James Illingworth, Chair of the University Council of Modern Languages Year Abroad Special Interest Group, told Varsity that "In 2020 the UK received €144.25m from Erasmus+, of which €87.6m went to Higher Education. Turing provided £98.531m of which £67m went to Higher Education."

Turing Scheme funding given to Higher Education this year has been supplemented by leftover Erasmus+ in many universities, including Cambridge. In future, these funds will not be available.

This means that certain proposals, such as paid internships, no longer receive funding.

Hugo Azerad, director of Year Abroad at Cambridge, told Varsity that "paid placements in more expensive places (Paris, Berlin, Munich in particular) would therefore run the risk of becoming less affordable for the students who are financially less secure, and other means/funding may have to be found."

He continued: "We are tackling this head-on of course, it is our key priority, make no mistake about this, but it now behoves us to do this, without any concrete help from the government." 

This raises some questions as to whether the Turing Scheme is able to truly target students from disadvantaged backgrounds since paid internships are often not sufficient to cover students’ cost of living. 

One student on a year abroad in Paris said that "it doesn’t really make sense to not fund students undertaking an internship on the basis of them earning a salary. Evidently 3.90 euros an hour (the rate in France) does not amount to a salary and cannot possibly cover one’s living costs."

They concluded: "the whole scheme is just widening inequality and making students choose their activities for their year abroad on the basis of their own financial background."

Another noted that "most interns I know in Paris are making 3,90-4,12EUR an hour."

One student in Spain, told Varsity that they were unable to receive funding from the Turing Scheme because they are “workers” in the government’s eyes. 

They said: "the reality is that we only get paid for twelve hours a week, so once rent and other expenses have been paid, there surely cannot be the same proportion of disposable money available as there would have been to past students."

A Year Abroad "should above all be about cultural immersion and discovery, which are in turn facilitated by the mobility enabled by additional financial support, rather than making ends meet."

Last year students on the same programme would have received around €3,200 from Erasmus+.

Although there are three different levels of funding available to students according to the cost of living in the target country, Azerad described these as "somewhat incoherent."

Azerad did however add that the Turing Scheme "is supposed to provide good solid extra help for students with disabilities and for seriously disadvantaged students."

In addition to the problems raised by having less money to divide between more applicants, departure from Erasmus+ also imposed administrative costs related to the UK’s departure from the EU. 

Dr Illingworth noted that "the Turing Scheme only covers additional costs generated by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU for those with the lowest household income. Obviously these costs did not exist under Erasmus+."

Another of the main concerns has been delays in funding from the Turing Scheme. 

While most students on their Year Abroad in Modern and Medieval Languages are using up remaining funds from Erasmus+, students from the law faculty have mostly transitioned to the Turing Scheme already.  

However, there have been lengthy delays in the funding process.

One law student on a year abroad in the Netherlands was informed on 11th August that the University’s application for Turing Scheme funding had been successful, and that "we would be receiving monthly grants as a result. This was one of the main reasons why I felt comfortable going on my year abroad."

However, it was not until 7th December that the funds finally arrived in a lump sum.

The student commented that "I was without access to the funding unexpectedly for approximately 3 months. I had been relying on the funding to live and study and the delay in receiving the funding was not explained properly."

Another student from the law faculty commented that "I arrived in France on the 2nd September 2021 and only received an invitation to complete an online form for Turing funding on the 2nd November."

"On the 19th November,  having filled in the relevant forms, I received confirmation that my grant had been calculated and would be paid in two installments. The earliest being the 29th of November."

"The money eventually arrived on the 3rd December 2021. Given that I arrived on the 2nd September, at that point I had spent 3 months in France without any of the Turing funding."

Dr Illingworth raised concerns that these problems may only be exacerbated for the 2022/23 round due to Capita taking on operational responsibility for the Turing Scheme in March of this year.

He noted that "the transfer from British Council/Ecorys to Capita is due to take place at the end of March, which was the middle of the 2021 application period.

"The timeline was already extremely tight for the 2021/22 academic year, with results only announced in August. We are concerned the move to Capita will replicate or even exacerbate this problem for the 2022/23 round."

The same concerns were raised in the House of Lords by Baroness Blower, who claimed that "removing the Turing scheme from the British Council, which has a global reach and reputation, is questionable. Awarding it to Capita, whose list of public sector failures in England is extensive, is frankly incredible."

Looking forward, Dr Illingworth said that although funding has been committed for Turing for a further three years, "there is a concern that without an increase in the upper budget (£110m) Turing cannot hope to make up the difference for language exchanges now that all institutions have used up their Erasmus+ funding."