At a time when government-backed funding for study abroad programmes is on the rise worldwide, the UK seems to be taking a step back. Brazil’s 75,000 scholarships for overseas study is well-documented, the USA/China initiative ‘100,000 Strong’ is sending record numbers of American students to China, and Japan has plans to give 40 universities across that country to encourage more Japanese students to experience an education abroad.
However, here in the UK last week the Universities Minister David Willetts opposed “the proposed 70% funding increase for Erasmus for All as being ‘completely unrealistic’.” The Erasmus for All programme helps to fund student mobility in Europe, and support for an increase in funding would hopefully allow more British students the opportunity to study overseas.
This is the same Universities Minister who was quoted last year in a BBC news story as saying he would like to see more British students studying abroad and gaining credits towards their degree while abroad. Although, it is interesting to note that in the same news story he is also quoted as saying, “I would like to see British universities with more of a presence abroad….I would like to see them be able to raise enough funds to set up more operations abroad.” This would indicate that all along he hasn’t wanted the UK government to provide the funding for study abroad, but that institutions and individuals find the money themselves.
Everyone agrees we need to provide our young people with the best chance at becoming involved and informed global citizens to stand a chance at competing successfully on the world’s stage. But how can we hope to achieve that if the government is saying, ‘we can’t support you, so figure it out for yourselves’.