The Future of the Erasmus Programme – Threatened by Brexit?

This time of year students may feel extra motivation to broaden their horizons and perhaps take up a new language. Furthermore, the fantastic opportunity that the Erasmus programme offers every year may stick out for those want to study or work abroad.

The Erasmus programme is an EU based exchange student programme that connects universities across Europe. The United Kingdom is one of the twenty-eight countries in the European Union that take part in the Erasmus programme. Furthermore, Coventry University is one the many universities in the United Kingdom that are tied with the programme.

The Erasmus programme gives students a unique opportunity to study or work abroad with financial backing, and free language education. The United Kingdom has often been scrutinised for not placing high enough regard on the incentive for education in language and culture. To compare with countries in Europe like Germany and most of Scandinavia who have a significantly much more advanced and methodical language education. We as a country have sat peacefully on the little rock we call home and been content with doing the absolute minimum when it comes to learning languages.

The Erasmus programme not only encourages cultural exploration, especially in this generation, it helps break down the mindset that we as a country are not ‘bothered’ about encouraging international education and opportunities.

However, the very existence of the Erasmus programme is being threatened by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union made in 2016. The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union in early 2019, after 53.4% of people eligible to vote in Britain chose to withdraw from the European Union. Many are concerned that many of the ties formed across Europe will be disbanded, and the Erasmus programme will feel the full affect of Brexit. For many students then, the opportunity to be apart of a programme like Erasmus may be more appealing as the uncertainty of its continuation is not clear.

Coventry University runs a number of initiatives and programmes to encourage students and people outside the university to get involved in learning languages. Linguae Mundi is the primary language learning scheme to prepare students for life in a foreign country.

I spoke to Daniel Valles-Capdevila, the Linguae Mundi Academic Manager, about Erasmus and the Linguae Mundi programme.

“For students, the Erasmus experience adds invaluable benefits to their formative path. As well as broadening their horizons, a year abroad improves their intercultural awareness and changes their outlook on the world. At the same time, an international experience makes graduates more employable, partly because of the additional language skills gained. In this regard, Linguae Mundi courses can help students prepare for their year abroad and continue to develop their language skills on their return.”

I also spoke to Linguae Mundi teacher Florian Mueller about the importance of language and the incentive for students to experience new cultures through the Erasmus programme.

“I think Erasmus is a fantastic programme because learning a language in Britain with Linguae Mundi is fantastic, but to really get to know the culture, the people and to speak the language on an everyday basis it is important, to get to the country, to interact with the people, to communicate with them and that is the biggest advantage of Erasmus”

“I do think that even after Brexit students are keen to learn other languages. To experience more and even say ok, even if we don’t have Erasmus anymore we want to go to another country, it might be much more difficult and not that easy anymore”

“I don’t think it will affect the Linguae Mundi office and our student numbers, but it will certainly have a down affect on the ties and the corporations with other universities. I guess, it’s now up to the European Union and the United Kingdom, the government to decide what should we keep what should we erase, but I’m a strong supporter of Erasmus and the whole Linguae Mundi programme.”

It seems time will tell what the affect Brexit will have upon programmes like Erasmus and Linguae Mundi, the importance of these schemes however, can not be undervalued.

– By James Garwood

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