A review of how UK universities will continue to participate in and benefit from ESN in a post-Brexit climate. By ESN QMUL President, Caitlin Evans.

Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a non-profit organisation run by students for students, promoting study abroad among 42 participating countries. Have a read below for Caitlin’s review of how our students will continue to benefit from all the ESN has to offer post-Brexit…

When the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, it was seen as one of the biggest political events of the 21st century so far. The UK seemed to be making a statement of independence, a step backwards into solitude. You’ve probably heard it all before, the ramifications and debates plastered on every news station – but how does it affect those at university? Many have raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on UK students’ opportunities to study abroad during their degree, particularly within the Erasmus+ Programme which has supported the mobility of over three million students between European Universities.

Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity for students to broaden their horizons, deepen their academia, enhance their career prospects, and experience life in a new country with funding and support. As part of a government inquiry to assess the effect of Brexit on these opportunities, ESN UK submitted an evidence report to the Education Committee of the House of Commons. Their findings detailed that leaving the Erasmus+ Programme, could lead to a higher disparity of opportunity due to increased obstacles to studying abroad, as well as deepened global inequality from a lack of insight and appreciation of other cultures.

However, ESN is determined to combat this. Most UK universities are currently in a limbo period between the remaining funding for Erasmus+ Programmes (2014-2020) and the UK government’s new Turing Scheme which dedicates £100m for international student mobility. ESN have announced strong support for a beneficial mutual existence of these mobility programmes, and strives towards the main goal of promoting and supporting the best international opportunities for students through whichever path or scheme available.

Moreover, the current 22 sections of ESN UK are proud to remain within the wider network and operate exactly the same as before. ESN connects around 15,000 volunteers offering services to an estimated 350,000 students across Europe, and this won’t change – except for growing by 12% each year! By operating in local, national, and international levels, ESN works to support every individual on their study abroad programme; connecting them with friends, organising social and cultural events, and assisting with any academic or welfare concerns.
The 22 active sections of ESN UK are:

ESN Aberdeen
ESN Aberystwyth
ESN Bristol
ESN City London
ESN Coventry
ESN Durham
ESN GCU, Glasgow
ESN Imperial, London
ESN Leeds
ESN Oxford Brookes
ESN QMUL, London
ESN RGU, Aberdeen
ESN Southampton
ESN Strathclyde, Glasgow
ESN UCLan, Preston
ESN UEA, Norwich
ESN UofG, Glasgow
ESN UWE, Bristol
ESN Warwick

The passion and consistent support of ESN will go hand-in-hand with the integration of the new Turing scheme as it finds its feet in UK universities. International Relations Offices can work alongside their ESN UK sections to smoothly implement and make the most of the new scheme within their university. In turbulent or uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to work together to supply correct information and encourage students to engage with all study abroad opportunities.

ESN UK also launched a project to promote mobility particularly in smaller cities struggling with low participation numbers in student study abroad programmes. This was a difficulty already faced by some universities which could be enhanced by Brexit, therefore ESN aimed to counteract this by targeting these cities with promotional conferences, events, and even parades.

Here at ESN QMUL, we host a variety of events and services, including but not limited to; fortnightly welfare drop-in hours to provide emotional and practical support to exchange students facing any kind of difficulty, language cafes to stimulate cultural exchange, and games nights (with prizes!) to help make friends on your exchange.

Therefore, the effects of the post-Brexit climate on international mobility can be overcome with the support of those who care and the work of the student volunteers in each ESN section. Despite the wider politics or financial hardships that may be out of our control, we can still help our cause as a passionate, non-political organisation. Whether it’s picking an international student up from the airport, running a stall in the fresher’s fair, or attending a conference in a European city, ESN’s main services will continue to be active in the UK. If we can make even one person’s study abroad experience better, that’s what counts.

https://esnuk.org/news/impact-exiting-european-union-higher-education

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