By Jim Murdoch and John Finlay

DESPITE Government promises, warnings from a parliamentary committee and no consultation with devolved administration or universities, the Turing programme is to replace Erasmus, the EU student, apprentice and volunteer exchange programme. It is claimed that the cost of Erasmus was too high and that more students from lower socio-economic backgrounds will now study at the world’s leading universities. Any proper cost-benefit-analysis, however, must include the huge income to businesses in university areas, and to the wider economy, that is generated by students and visiting friends and family.

Students in Scotland account for 20 per cent of UK outbound mobility. London’s disregard for Scotland’s situation may do further damage to the Union, particularly as students in Northern Ireland will continue to benefit from Erasmus.

Misconceptions must be challenged. Erasmus is not restricted to the wealthy. More than 60 per cent of law undergraduates at Glasgow University, and half of those from under-represented socio-economic groups, participate. Nor is it a holiday; the grades achieved abroad are counted towards their final degree. Erasmus is a long-established exchange programme involving fee-waiver and financial support for students. It funds incoming students to Scotland and outgoing students (including a supplement for those from "widening participation" backgrounds). Reciprocity requires funding in both directions, as Switzerland recognised when it (involuntarily) withdrew from Erasmus. Without reciprocity there is no exchange and without exchange study abroad is a radically different, more expensive, and more exclusive proposition.

European students can study in English in most member states. If not funded to study in Britain, they will go elsewhere, particularly given the post-Brexit £800 charge Britain will now impose for a visa and healthcare. Only those who can afford to will come to Britain. This will decrease social mobility as the opportunity for British students seeking to study in more affordable destinations in central Europe will be lost because few, if any, students will come the other way.

While Turing presumes that non-European institutions will agree mutual fee-waivers, the tradition of mobility exchange is not replicated outside Europe. Glasgow law school is ranked 40th globally, but non-European agreements have lapsed as partners found exchange reciprocity impossible. Most UK universities will find it costly and near-impossible to negotiate fee-waivers, particularly as Turing will be out-classed by a competing Erasmus scheme now itself global.

The "truly global" promise also misleads, for Government prioritisation will determine destinations and students will be sent to countries targeted for strengthened economic and social relationships. Student mobility is now an aspect of strategic policy-delivery rather than education.

The new programme was met with despair. Decades of increasing internationalisation in learning and "spin-off"benefits in research and postgraduate recruitment are threatened. Longstanding subject-area links supporting student confidence in undertaking mobility will be abandoned. An important education, cultural and personal experience will be denied thousands of students from all backgrounds. If a GB-wide reversal of policy is not possible, creativity must permit a solution for Scotland as it has for Northern Ireland.

Jim Murdoch is  Professor of Public Law and former Dean of International Mobility at the University of Glasgow; John Finlay is Professor of Scots Law and College of Social Sciences undergraduate mobility lead.