Students from deprived and rural backgrounds face losing out under the Turing exchange scheme because it offers “lesser levels of funding” compared with the EU's Erasmus+ programme, Scottish colleges have warned.

Their intervention comes after initial results showed just six of 110 successful applications in the further (FE) and vocational education/ training (VET) sectors were from north of the Border.

Only three of those - Borders and Glasgow Clyde colleges, and New College Lanarkshire - are mainstream FE institutions. The others are Glasgow Girls FC, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, and Zone Out Partnership. Of nearly £22 million in UK-wide funding provided to support FE and VET activity, just over £556,000 has been secured by Scottish applicants.

College outcomes also compare poorly with those for the country’s higher education (HE) institutions, which scooped almost £7m of the £67m approved in their sector.

Department for Education (DfE) officials dispute claims that funding under Turing – which was launched after UK ministers decided to leave the EU’s Erasmus+ scheme – is less generous. They also expect the number of participating FE providers from Scotland to increase.

READ MORE: Erasmus replacement under fire after guide published

But Jamie Hepburn, minister for further and higher education, said the SNP-Green government in Edinburgh would have to “consider how best to offer staff and learners further opportunities for mobility exchange”.

A spokeswoman for Colleges Scotland, which represents the country’s FE sector, said: “Colleges in Scotland have always participated in the Erasmus+ scheme, and now in its first year of operation colleges are looking at the Turing Scheme to see how best the new opportunities will operate in practice; it is yet to be evaluated.

“However, at present, the Turing Scheme allocates lesser levels of funding for students as compared to the financial support package that was available through the Erasmus+ scheme. For example, living costs and travel costs aren’t funded to the same extent.

“These differences will impact students from deprived and rural backgrounds more - Colleges Scotland have stressed the point about disadvantaged students to UK Government as the scheme was being developed.”

She added: “With some changes, the Turing Scheme could work well for colleges in Scotland and provide opportunities for students.”

HeraldScotland: The Turing Scheme was launched after Brexit and the UK's decision to exit Erasmus .The Turing Scheme was launched after Brexit and the UK's decision to exit Erasmus .

Turing has been at the centre of an ongoing row over whether it helps or hinders those looking to benefit from overseas study.

UK ministers claim it will boost their “Global Britain” and “levelling up” agendas by making a greater number of opportunities available to poorer students. Organisers also stress that nearly half (47.8 per cent) of placements approved for financial support in the first funding round are for participants identified as coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But critics insist the British programme is inferior to Erasmus+. They say it is focused on outward mobility, fails to offer the same level of reciprocity to inbound students, does not provide research/partnership funding and leaves out teaching staff.

Mr Hepburn said: “The 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.

“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.”

READ MORE: Scotland urged to follow Welsh example and set up own version of Erasmus+

He added: “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.”

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland President, said: “The UK Government’s new Turing Scheme is a major blow for Scotland’s colleges whose students and staff are set to miss out on life transforming international exchange opportunities... Learners deserve a scheme that delivers – or improves upon – the benefits offered by Erasmus+, but instead many of Scotland’s most disadvantaged students are set to have those opportunities needlessly removed.”

HeraldScotland: Jamie Hepburn is minister for further and higher education.Jamie Hepburn is minister for further and higher education.

Jim O’Donovan, Education Convener at the EIS Further Education Lecturers' Association, also voiced concern.

“The students who will be the hardest hit yet again are those from areas of multiple deprivation,” he said. “It would seem that colleges are sceptical about the Turing scheme at the moment, and this has led to limited uptake up in applications.

“I also suspect that the Scottish Government may not have pushed this scheme with enough enthusiasm due to it being a UK government initiative, which may also have contributed to the limited applications made in its first tranche.”

A DfE spokesman said: “The Turing Scheme is demand led and all the results of the placements announced were the result of a competitive application process.

"Funding was not ring-fenced and therefore providers across all nations of the UK and from across the sectors were able to bid, with no cap on the amount of funding institutions can potentially receive.”