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U.K. Targets Ivy League for Post-Brexit Student Exchange Plan

Boris Johnson’s government wants to send more British students to Ivy League universities, as it seeks to strengthen U.S. ties in the wake of Brexit.

The U.K.’s new Turing Scheme aims to send about 35,000 students at high schools and universities to work or study abroad from this fall, with applications due to close on Wednesday for participating institutions.

It is designed to be wider-reaching than the European Union’s Erasmus program, which the U.K. opted out of as it left the bloc. That sent only 3% of participants outside Europe, according to Universities Minister Michelle Donelan.

British Universities have “been talking to the likes of Harvard, Yale and other universities across America,” Donelan said in an interview, adding that she’d personally spoken to MIT. “Some of America’s finest institutions are keen to be involved in the Turing Scheme.”

Johnson announced in December the U.K. would no longer take part in Erasmus, which it participated in since 1987. The government has said staying on the program, which began a new 7-year budget cycle this year, would have cost 2 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) more than the U.K. received in benefits.

The U.K. will spend 110 million pounds in the first year of its replacement program, which it sees as a way to let students tap study and work opportunities around the world, improving their career prospects.

U.S. Push

Universities are expected to waive tuition fees for exchange students, while program funds will pay monthly living allowances for U.K. students studying abroad. While there are no geographical targets, the government hopes a “substantial portion” of students will go to the U.S., Donelan said.

Donelan didn’t provide application statistics, saying only that the numbers are “looking extremely strong.” Under Erasmus, the U.K. sent about 18,000 students in 2018 to study or work in the EU, and hosted about 30,000 EU students, according to the House of Commons Library.

The government also wants broader access to Turing for disabled students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, Donelan said. Measures will include covering travel costs and introducing shorter study-abroad stays, she said.

“These are life-changing opportunities and really can dramatically help with social mobility, so it is important that they’re open and accessible,” she said.

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