EU study trips to be funded by ex Aberystwyth Uni student


William Parker says he learned to speak French and Dutch while studying in France

A graduate has donated over £500,000 to his former university to help fund overseas study for young people.

William Parker graduated in History at Aberystwyth University in 1981, learning French and Dutch in France.

Mr Parker said: “In my experience, such opportunities provide an improved personal toolkit for life after university.”

The EU Erasmus Scheme was dropped by the UK government as part of its Brexit deal.

‘Espresso coffee’

Following the decision to opt out of the Erasmus Scheme, the UK government has created its own Turing programme.

Welsh government has also set up its own new international study programme which will begin next year.

The funding given by Mr Parker is separate to the Welsh scheme and is called the European Opportunities Fund and is based at Aberystwyth University.

It was formally launched on Thursday to provide grants of between £500 and £3,000 to students to study, work or attend conferences in the Europe.

In the first year the funding will be available for periods up to four weeks.

Image caption,The announcement was made at Aberystwyth University on Thursday

Mr Parker hopes the month-long visits will provide a stimulus like “espresso coffee” to the students – enabling them to visit new places, meet new people and establish new networks for study, work and social purposes.

Vice Chancellor Prof Elizabeth Treasure said the funding would boost its ability to help students and “bring wonderful new opportunities for so many of our students”.

Mr Parker said learning other languages opened up a far wider range of job opportunities for him.

Now he has a successful career in engineering-based businesses and applies the skills he learned working internationally.

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He said: “In a rapidly changing world it is important the university and its students maintain their interconnectedness across the EU and the European economic area.

“I hope that this new fund will make it easier for Aberystwyth students from all backgrounds to travel and experience new languages and cultures.

“I hope this new fund will inspire students to visit new places, meet new people and establish new networks for study, work and social purposes.”

Fine Art MA student Carys Wilson is the first recipient of a grant from the European Opportunities Fund.

Ms Wilson has just completed a week-long art course in Sardinia, Italy which was “brain food” for her.

“I gained a huge amount of practical and historical knowledge from an expert in her studio, worked alongside emerging artists and made invaluable professional links,” she said.

“It has really sped up my learning, enabling me to move forward much quicker and with greater confidence in my own practice as I move towards my MA shows next year.

“Without the European Opportunities Fund there is absolutely no way I would have been able to attend this course, pay for accommodation or the travel costs, and the application process was easy.”

Charlotte Wright, 21, is living in Barcelona studying until the end of June funded via the Erasmus scheme.

“When I first moved here, for about the first week or two, I didn’t think I’d stick it,” she said.

“I was really homesick and overwhelmed by the change in culture. However, I went to Erasmus events and met lots of new people who have now become my friends.

“This made a huge difference to my mental wellbeing and I feel that I am now thriving here.”

“It is an experience I would completely recommend to anyone,” she said but added Brexit “has had a big effect on my year abroad,” mainly due to visas.

Some students, she said, have had to return due to complications and hidden costs such as a TIE – a foreigner’s identity card – which cost 100 euro (about £85).

“It is so important that schemes like Erasmus and Turing continue.

“I know that without the extra funding, that I would be struggling here due to the limit on how much student visa holders can work whilst in Spain.

“It also limits financial discrimination so that people from all backgrounds are able to experience studying or working abroad.

“Being able to come and study abroad like this also gives young people more employability skills as we gain independence, become more confident and learn to be resilient, let alone learn new languages.”

Image caption,Bertie Burrell said there were still hidden costs such as applying for visas which caused barriers for students

Business management student Bertie Burrell, 20, is currently in Denmark funded via the newly developed Turing scheme.

He said it was easy to apply for and was popular with people he knows, adding that seven out of nine of his housemates applied for the scheme.

Although everyone does have access to the scheme, he said there were additional costs such as flights, visa fees, accommodation fees and the cost of living abroad.

“Due to Brexit, the right to free travel across the EU disappeared, resulting in the need for a visa to enter Denmark.

“This was a very time consuming process,” he said, adding the embassy had still not processed his visa after four months costing him over £400.

Despite this, the schemes were a “brilliant opportunity for students to experience and immerse themselves in a new culture and education system”.