‘It makes me really sad’ - Suffolk’s anger as Erasmus foreign exchange scheme thrown into doubt
- Credit: Archant
People to benefit from a life-changing foreign exchange scheme have criticised a “heartbreaking” decision not to save it following a Brexit bill vote.
The Erasmus scheme funds university students to study new languages abroad while soaking up foreign culture, meaning many languages students could study for a year abroad.
But MPs have now voted against an amendment to the Brexit bill, which would have forced the government to negotiate for the next round of the European Union programme.
Even though the current Erasmus agreement lasts until 2020, its future after that is in doubt.
It means there would be no grant to cover the costs of a year abroad, which critics fear will disadvantage those without financial means.
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Polly Grice, a French teacher at a school in Lowestoft, spent a year in Paris as part of the scheme while studying at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
"If I hadn't done my year abroad I definitely wouldn't be a French teacher today," she said.
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"It helped me enormously with my language skills and my cultural understanding, which I pass onto my students every day.
"I often mention things to my students about how they can spend a year abroad and how they will be able to use their languages but without the Erasmus scheme it won't be possible for many of them, it makes me really sad."
Miss Grice is also worried that the loss of such a scheme could negatively impact the recruitment of Modern Foreign Language teachers.
The 30-year-old added: "For young people to miss out on this opportunity that massively changed my life is heartbreaking.
"As a teacher, everything I do is centred around trying to give my students more opportunities, I can't fathom why this huge one is being taken away from them."
Izabela Huchins, Erasmus co-ordinator at the University of Suffolk, said it was a "sad day for international relations".
"It is the loss of an amazing way to experience culture," she said.
"The students will not gain this from a two-week summer holiday and it is inevitably the people from disadvantaged backgrounds that will suffer the most from the loss."
If lost, she hopes Erasmus will be replaced by a similar scheme from the British government.
Emily Cashen, of Ipswich, found her six months in Paris as part of the scheme while at the University of Manchester "valuable and fulfilling".
"My year abroad wouldn't have been possible without the Erasmus grant," she said.
"It's a real shame that students might be denied the opportunity to benefit from this experience if the UK withdraws from the Erasmus programme."