On Sunday, March 21st, the Welsh Government announced the launch of an International Learning Exchange Programme for Wales. Following the UK Government’s decision to withdraw from the Erasmus+ scheme, Wales has been investigating “alternative approaches to build on existing, and develop new, international learning partnerships, based on reciprocity and mutual respect.”

Our students and staff are vital ambassadors for us overseas, promoting the message that Wales is an inviting destination for students and partners across the world, and their education and cultural awareness are improved in many ways as a result of spending time abroad – just as our education providers are enriched by students and staff visiting Wales to study and teach.

By investing in this programme now, we are investing in a strong, international and prosperous future for all young people in Wales.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister

Welsh institutions will be able to participate in the UK Government’s Turing Scheme in 2021/2022 and also continue to benefit from Erasmus+ exchanges deferred from last year due to the pandemic. As the government states, the new programme aims to fill the gaps Turing leaves.

The new scheme will run from 2022 to 2026 and will be supported by an investment of £65m from the Welsh Government. The scheme will enable learners and staff, both from Wales and those who come to study or work in Wales, to continue to benefit from international exchanges in a similar way to the opportunities that flowed from Erasmus+, and not just in Europe.

In summary, the scheme will:

  • Run between 2022 and 2026, with funding of £65m;

  • Fund inward mobility to Wales as well as outward mobility from Wales;

  • Cover staff as well as students;

  • Cover other areas included in Erasmus+ such as youth and adult education;

  • Include both long term and short term exchanges in higher education;

  • Enable existing Erasmus+ partnerships to continue, while also developing links with priority countries across the world;

  • Ensure that opportunities are available to the widest range of learners and young people, including underrepresented groups and those with additional learning needs;

  • Potentially, support exploratory exchanges to broker international research partnerships.     

This is a down payment on our young people’s futures, offering opportunities to all, from all backgrounds. Securing these opportunities is particularly important in the context of the difficulties experienced by young people and learners across Wales as a result of the pandemic.

Mark Drakeford, First Minister

The programme will provide funding to enable students, staff and learners across universities, further education and vocational education and training (VET), adult education, youth work settings and schools to undertake a period of structured learning or work experience overseas, as well as enabling strategic partnerships.

A fundamental principle of the programme will be reciprocity. Where necessary, the programme will fund costs related to the inward mobility of learners, teachers and young people from partner organisations abroad. This will enable existing partnerships which have been built up under Erasmus + to continue and help to create new ones.

The scheme aims to enable 15,000 participants from Wales to go on overseas mobility exchanges over the first four years, with 10,000 participants coming to study or work in Wales.

The reciprocal nature of the new scheme will provide key benefits for Wales. International students, staff and researchers play an invaluable role in diversifying and internationalising our campuses and communities at a time when retaining an international outlook is more important than ever.”

Professor Julie Lydon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Wales and Chair of Universities Wales

The full written statement, signed by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Minister for Education Kirsty Williams, together with more information, can be found on the Welsh government website here and here.

We are delighted to be entrusted with hosting and co-developing the new International Learning Exchange programme which secures the opportunity for global experiences for the next generation of students, across a wide range of learning settings. We are sure that the scheme will be of huge benefit both for the learners and for raising the global profile of Wales as a connected, open and inviting country.

Professor Colin Riordan, the President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University

The Erasmus Student Network is looking forward to collaborating with the actors involved in the development of the programme and supporting the incoming and outgoing students from Wales with the help of our sections across Europe.