Academics, lecturers and researchers are pushing for Scotland to re-join the Erasmus+ programme independently as anger grows over the UK's post-Brexit replacement.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are set to debate a motion calling formally for the organisation to "lobby" ministers in favour of the EU project, which funds education, student exchanges, training, youth and sport across the continent.

The text also criticises Britain's Turing Scheme for reducing the ability of students from the bloc to come to universities here and stresses that it does not include teaching staff.

Branding the UK Government's programme "not fit for purpose", the motion praises Erasmus+ as "one of the biggest successes of internationalisation, changing lives, enriching research and connecting higher education [HE] institutions".

READ MORE: Fears students will be worse off

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, told The Herald she was confident the proposal would be supported during this week's Congress (March 26).

It would mean the union, whose membership includes academics, lecturers, researchers, librarians and postgraduate teaching assistants, could "lobby the Scottish Government to join the Erasmus scheme on its own and offer whatever support is necessary to achieve this end".

The move comes as concerns grow that entire groups of students, such as the disabled and those seeking places on Masters-level courses abroad, will be worse off.

Recent analysis also suggests the Erasmus+ grants system for living costs and travel is more generous than Turing's, while tuition fee arrangements under the British scheme will be subject to waiver deals with participating universities.

The Herald: UCU Scotland Official Mary Senior.UCU Scotland Official Mary Senior.

UK ministers have defended their £110 million programme, insisting it will help disadvantaged individuals and provide funding for 35,000 international exchanges.

But Ms Senior said: "Erasmus wasn’t just about students and staff from Scotland and the UK being able to learn overseas, it helped those from other participating countries to come here.

"It was about understanding the culture and language of another country. The fact Turing doesn’t offer the same reciprocity is really problematic for us.

“The other problem is the temporary nature of it. Turing is only for one year. It’s going to be far harder to build relationships with other institutions when you don’t know what’s going to happen with the scheme after 2022."

READ MORE: EU chief closes door on separate Scottish participation in Erasmus

Her remarks come after European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen last month closed the door on separate participation for Scotland in Erasmus+. She said that, as a "constituent nation" of the UK, it could not associate independently with the EU's scheme.

But Ms Senior said moves were underway to explore how a relationship could be preserved, adding: "There is an option within the Erasmus scheme for outward mobility to countries that aren’t official Erasmus partners.

"We need to be looking at how we could use that aspect to encourage Erasmus countries to provide outward mobility to Scotland and then possibly use Turing funding to maintain reciprocity, so our students could go to Erasmus countries."

Meanwhile, there are fears many could miss out on overseas learning opportunities.

Anthony Jones, 26, from Dunblane, who is studying for an MSc in Economics and Finance at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics within Pompeu Fabra University, said: "For those looking to do a Masters overseas, the EU caps tuition fees for EU/EEA members. Mine would have been capped at £4,000 for the course I wanted to do. Without the cap, I was looking at £16,000. It was also possible to get a loan through the Erasmus Masters loan scheme.

"Under Turing, there’s nothing, there’s no help at all if you’re looking to do a Masters – no tuition fee cap, no Masters loan scheme.... If I hadn’t got the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go."

The Herald: Anthony Jones would like to see Scotland and the UK re-join Erasmus.Anthony Jones would like to see Scotland and the UK re-join Erasmus.

Mr Jones, who wants Scotland and the UK to re-join Erasmus+, added: "Brexit has made the prospect of studying a postgraduate degree in Europe impossible for all but the wealthy and the most fortunate, and so I urge the UK government to consider implementing some measures that give all young students the same opportunity that I was lucky enough to receive.”

Commenting on Mr Jones' case, Alyn Smith, SNP MP for Stirling, said: "Under the Turing Scheme, tuition fees alone can jump astronomically. In Anthony’s case, between five and ten times the amount they would have been under Erasmus.

“Anthony is one of the lucky ones, and secured a scholarship which, with some help from his parents, has enabled him to study in Barcelona. Something that Anthony and his family have worked out themselves, with no help from the UK’s now inferior Turing Scheme."

He added: “Having now lived through a devastating pandemic, young people need their horizons broadened, not narrowed. 

“No amount of bluff and bluster from Boris Johnson will repair that. The Prime Minister should apologise and his government should act now to re-join the Erasmus programme, or actually replace it and all of its benefits like for like.”

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NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said: "As students, we are being deprived of an opportunity to expand our horizons. Additionally, the travel and fee subsidies within the Erasmus+ scheme made studying abroad more realistic for working class students.

“Despite the claims of the UK government, they have not backed up the new Turing scheme with the funding required to support postgraduate students to study abroad. This will harm the futures of thousands of students for years to come.”

A spokeswoman for Westminster's Department for Education said: "The new Turing Scheme is backed by £110 million, and will provide funding for 35,000 global exchanges, a similar number to that offered under Erasmus+.

“We know that under Erasmus+ the most privileged students were 1.7x more likely to participate in study abroad, and our Turing Scheme aims to change this, ensuring that as many students as possible have access to life-changing opportunities to study and work abroad. Disadvantaged students are also currently set to benefit from more funding per month than under Erasmus+.”

A Universities Scotland spokesman said: “Our priority is to ensure that the Turing Scheme is as successful as possible for students to study abroad next academic year."