SCOTLAND is to set up its own version of the Erasmus education programme after the European Union blocked its membership of their landmark scheme earlier this year, the Sunday National can reveal.

Ministers and civil servants are holding discussions about the scheme with members of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Some of the work is being undertaken by the Scottish Government’s hubs based in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Dublin.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson controversially withdrew the UK from the EU Erasmus initiative, which offered university student exchanges as well as school links and work experience, as part of its Brexit deal struck last year.

He established the successor £105 million Turing scheme, but both Scottish and Welsh ministers wanted their two countries to remain in the EU programme, saying the new Turing initiative lacked some key Erasmus benefits.

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Turing only offers British students a chance to study overseas and does not offer a package of financial support to students from the EU or elsewhere to study in the UK.

Senior SNP politicians met with their counterparts in Brussels to try to keep Scotland in Erasmus, however, in February this year Ursula von der Leyen (below), the commission president ruled out individual membership for Scotland and Wales.

The National:

Ministers in Edinburgh intend that the new scheme would work alongside Turing and also make up for any of its shortcomings. It is also in addition to the Scottish Government’s recently announced Saltire Scholarship programme allowing EU nationals to study in Scotland.

“We remain committed to Erasmus+ and are exploring how to re-secure Scotland’s access to it. In the interim we are developing a Scottish Education Exchange Programme to support participants from across Scotland’s education system.

“Post-Brexit, we are determined to strengthen and repair our institutions’ international links through exchange programmes and scholarships,” Minister for Higher and Further Education Jamie Hepburn told the Sunday National.

“The UK Government’s Turing scheme is a watered-down imitation of Erasmus+ which will see support for our most disadvantaged learners cut, and opportunities for all our students, staff and young people reduced.

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“The scheme’s application results highlight the need for the Scottish Government to consider how best to offer staff and learners further opportunities for mobility exchange.”

It is not clear when the Scottish scheme will launch and which universities will take part with planning still at an early stage.

The Government said the new programme will help maintain Scotland’s place as “an outward-looking, internationally connected destination for work and study” and that further steps will be announced in due course.

“The Scottish Government recognises the importance of reciprocal educational mobility. We remain committed to Erasmus+ and will continue to engage with the European Parliament and European Commission on how we can maximise our institutions’ access to the EU programme,” a statement said.

Wales announced earlier this year that it was setting up its own £65m “international learning exchange” to succeed Erasmus.

A spokesperson for Universities Scotland welcomed the Erasmus-style plan. “We support the Turing scheme as it was mobilised quickly and avoided there being a gap in opportunities for outward mobility for students following Brexit. We now need to see a long-term commitment made to the scheme in next week’s spending review,” she said.

“Scotland has benefitted so much from the inward flow of students as part of the Erasmus scheme.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to the development of something new and it is encouraging if conversations are now happening with Brussels. Universities want to be a pro-active partner in this and we’d like to see a scheme develop on a par with the scale of ambition delivered by the Welsh Assembly.”