NI universities can spend EU Erasmus scheme money until 2023


By Robbie Meredith

BBC News NI Education Correspondent

Northern Ireland’s universities, schools and colleges can continue to spend money from the EU Erasmus scheme until 2023.

However, they can only continue to use money they have already been awarded rather than make fresh funding bids.

Erasmus mainly covers exchanges, study and work placements for students and staff.

The UK turned down an offer to continue participating in Erasmus after Brexit and set up an alternative scheme.

The Turing Scheme will also provide funding “towards placements and exchanges” of students across the world.

Universities, colleges and training organisations in Northern Ireland have received about £1.6m in the first round of funding from the Turing Scheme.

That was out of £96m in funding awarded to schools, colleges and universities across the UK.

Northern Ireland received more than £50m from Erasmus during 2014-19.

That enabled about 3,500 students and staff to spend time studying or on a work placement in another country during that period.

The final year in which schools, colleges and universities in the UK could bid for funding from Erasmus was 2020, as the UK is not participating in the new Erasmus programme which runs from 2021-2027.

The Irish government has previously said that it would enable students at Northern Irish universities to continue to participate in the Erasmus scheme after Brexit.

Image caption,The Republic of Ireland’s higher education minister Simon Harris said his government was fulfilling a commitment to people in Northern Ireland

The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has been contacted by BBC News NI for an update on the proposed arrangement.

But BBC News NI understands that negotiations between Northern Ireland’s universities and colleges and the Irish government on how that will operate have not yet been completed.

However, UK projects which received funding from the Erasmus programme from 2014-2020 continue to receive EU funding until the project is finished.

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission has now extended the funding for all Erasmus projects that had been agreed in or by 2020 until 2023.

That means Northern Ireland’s schools, universities and colleges can continue to receive funding for study or work placements or projects which had already been approved under Erasmus.

From 2014-2019, about 1,480 students travelled from Northern Ireland for study placements while 1,750 travelled for traineeships or work placements.

A further 359 school, college or university staff were funded for placements over those five years.

Spain, Germany and the Netherlands were among the most popular destinations for study for Northern Ireland students, while the Republic of Ireland was the most popular destination for work placements.

According to separate figures from the Republic of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, 280 students from Northern Ireland went to Ireland for a work placement under Erasmus in 2019, while 229 went to Ireland in 2018.

The majority of those work placements were in Dublin for students taking degrees in vocational qualifications in degrees such as computer science or subjects related to financial services.