What does the Brexit deal mean for the UM?
MAASTRICHT. The British are quitting the Erasmus + exchange programme. “A peculiar step,” says Martin Paul, President of Maastricht University. A step that he - just like his colleagues at British universities - did not see coming. There is a leniency regulation for students who had already arranged their exchange to the country before the deal was in place. They may cross the see until September 2022.
The European Union and the United Kingdom finally closed a Brexit deal at the end of December. Collaboration in the field of research will not be endangered, because the British want to continue to contribute towards the European research budget, but they will discontinue Erasmus +.
Students from other countries can no longer visit British universities on the basis of funding from the exchange programme. “The United Kingdom does have an alternative programme,” says Martin Paul, but “they will only pay for their own students who go abroad”. Students from the mainland who want to spend a semester studying at a British university, will be charged. How much that will be is still unclear, because the British government still hasn’t decided yet what the tuition fees for foreign students will be.
Exchanges with closed purses is another possibility for the future, Paul answers. The UM already do so with a number of other European universities, “but it is less simple than in the Erasmus system”.
About 160 to 180 students from the UM visit the UK every year (last year there were a lot fewer because of COVID-19). Sixty British students on average find their way to Maastricht. But that too has now been halved because of COVID-19.
“Exchange is a mutual thing, it works two ways,” says Paul. The fact that students will be ‘turned away’ from 1 September 2022 (which is when the leniency regulation ends), he feels is therefore “unusual” and “a great loss”. Student exchange is not high on the agenda in the UK, he concludes. Moreover, he has noticed that there is more enthusiasm there for exchanges with such countries as China and the Commonwealth than with Europe.
Universities alliance YUFE (Young Universities for the Future of Europe), which is chaired by UM president Paul, is also funded from the Erasmus+ programme. The British partner, University of Essex, will remain in the alliance, but no longer as a formal partner, says Paul. They will continue to collaborate as an associate partner, but without European means. “Essex had already said that they want to continue and are even prepared to make their own investments.”
Furthermore, Maastricht has close ties with another British university, that of York. Two years ago, the two institutes entered into an intensive collaboration, mainly in the field of research. Maastricht and York hoped that with this alliance they could ease the negative consequences of the withdrawal. Because the Brexit negotiators were able to come to an agreement about the participation in European research and innovation programme Horizon Europe, this collaboration will remain intact, says Paul.