Turing funding timeline in UK causing participants to drop out

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Turing funding timeline in UK causing participants to drop out


The first official analysis of the Turing scheme has been published, echoing concerns voiced by stakeholders since its rollout.

One success of the scheme has been in improving the international outlook of participants. Photo: Unsplash

Only 45% of higher education providers felt the Turing scheme was “satisfactory” in providing placement opportunities

Stakeholders have previously expressed concerns surrounding the funding model of the Turing scheme, which was introduced in 2021 as the UK’s equivalent to the EU’s Erasmus+ exchange program.

The research found that less than half of higher education participants – 45% – felt the funding provided by Turing covered at least half of their costs on placement. This figure was higher for further education and vocational education and training participants at 86%.

“Providers said that the timing of when application outcomes were confirmed (i.e., after many participants would have had to already commit to their placement abroad) meant some who could not afford the upfront cost or the risk of funding not being available down the line dropped out,” the report read.

The report also found that many participants received funding while already on placement, or even after having returned. These participants acknowledged that without being able to source alternative funds, from partners or savings, they would not have been able to carry out the placement.

Last year, payment delays meant some universities were forced to underwrite the funding for students until it came through, The PIE reported.

Generally, schools, further education and vocational training providers expressed a more positive experience of the scheme in its first year, with 89% saying the scheme was “satisfactory” in providing placement opportunities.

Meanwhile, 45% of higher education providers felt this way and around one third – 31% – said that they thought the scheme was unsatisfactory and around 24% were ambivalent, according to the research.

Aneta Hayes, dean of internationalisation in the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Keele University said many of findings of the report align with the experiences at Keele, and what she has heard across the sector.

For Hayes, the major flaw is in the design of the scheme.

“It is meant to replace Erasmus to facilitate mutual exchanges between the students – yet, it supports the students traveling out of the UK only. Under the scheme we can no longer offer to support students to undertake mobility to the UK,” she told The PIE.

Hayes said this lack of reciprocity has had a “very negative impact” on universities attempts to internationalise campuses and the experiences of home students on campus who cannot travel abroad.

Under the scheme we can no longer offer to support students to undertake mobility to the UK

“This has also had a devastating impact on our international partnerships, how can we foster our international collaborations in teaching and research, if we cannot support our partners to visit our campuses.”

The report highlighted a key aim of the Turing Scheme was to develop international links with new partners around the world. This was the case for 89% of further education and vocational education and training providers and 86% of schools but was less common for higher education providers at 48%.

In terms of improving the international outlook of participants, the vast majority – 90% from higher education settings and 84% from further education and vocational education and training – reported an increased ability to get along with people from different cultural backgrounds after their placement.

The research brought to light concerns, mostly from higher education providers, surrounding the application process during year one of the scheme – a concern shared by Hayes, who said that many of the bureaucratic processes in place result in no students being supported.

One of the main strengths of the scheme promoted by the government is to widen participation and give access to opportunities to those from lower-income backgrounds.

According to the government, more than 40,000 students are set to benefit from Turing in the 2023/2024 academic year, 60% of whom are from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups. This includes around 1,800 additional students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the further education sector alone compared to last year.

“The Turing Scheme is a real game-changer for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, empowering them with transformative opportunities abroad, a chance to experience other cultures and learn vital skills for life and work,” said Robert Halfon, minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education.

“It showcases our positive ambition post-Brexit, fostering a global outlook for more students who deserve every chance to thrive,” he continued.

“Young people benefit from inspirational placements around the world, not just Europe, building the confidence and skills they need for their future, whilst bolstering the government’s drive for a global Britain.”

However, Hayes told The PIE that the requirement of minimum four weeks of mobility makes it difficult for widening participation students who are more likely to have commitments such as family, caring responsibilities or jobs than non-widening participation students.

“Turing is meant to support widening participation students in particular, but the restrictions mean that students often cannot travel,” she said.

“The four weeks also make it more difficult for our partners to accommodate our students, which means we cannot support students to attend summer schools abroad which are usually shorter.”

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