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Britain’s exit from the exchange programme has needlessly destroyed something of enormous value, writes Oliver Bayliss
As we enter a new year we do so outside of the European Union. During the final throes of the tit-for-tat negotiations between government and EU chiefs – when fishing quotas and level playing fields grabbed the limelight – it was the abolition of the Erasmus+ scheme that stands out as one of the more depressing acts of self-sabotage. The scheme enabled participants seeking higher education, work placements and training exchanges to spend up to a year in other member states’ universities; providing an opportunity to expand horizons, learn languages and experience different cultures. In 2019 alone nearly 55,000 young people benefited from the scheme, funded by grants totalling €144.7m.
Now, after 33 years and hundreds of thousands of UK participants, that door is closed.
I was one of those students. In 2005 I spent a year in Barcelona at the polytechnic school of architecture. It was daunting at first; studying in another language (Catalan mostly rather than Castilian Spanish which I learned the bones of before going). What struck me was the emphasis on the technical aspects of architectural education. Afternoons were spent calculating the size of radiators. Exams resembled A-levels; rows of desks, a scale ruler and pencil, 90 minutes to draw a stack of window details.
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