The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU and Erasmus+ is having profound effects on international exchange and cooperative relationships with Germans’ higher education institutions. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is therefore presenting ten propositions that could regulate how academic relations with the British Isles could in future be shaped.
'Brexit has resulted in the European Union having a lot less room for manoeuvre in terms of academic cooperation and exchange. Whilst we regret it, especially in light of decades or even centuries of great cooperation between German and British higher education institutions, there is a need to react positively to this situation,' said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. He believes it is especially the individual mobility of students and researchers travelling to the United Kingdom that is severely affected. 'The United Kingdom has some of the best higher education institutions in Europe and worldwide. As an organisation promoting academic mobility and scientific exchange, it is therefore imperative that we further develop our own funding instruments and support our partner institutions as best we can given the challenges ahead. We aim to facilitate continuation of the excellent academic relations with the United Kingdom under new auspices,' states Mukherjee.
The future of cooperation with the United Kingdom – ten propositions
- The United Kingdom’s exit is not just a British problem, it is also a problem for Germany and for German higher education institutions. Close collaboration with some of the world’s best higher education institutions has to be re-established on new foundations. All of DAAD’s deliberations are based on this guiding principle.
- British higher education institutions repeatedly opposed Brexit. And it is in particular British students, researchers and academics who are simultaneously suffering from this departure. British higher education institutions are making intense efforts to maintain cooperation with their international partners. DAAD aims to utilise this momentum to benefit its member institutions.
- All interested parties need to intensively exploit the remaining period before the 2014–2020 Erasmus programme generation ends in May 2023. German students travelling to the United Kingdom have barely two years left of student exchange with scholarships and without tuition fees. The 2021–2027 programme generation is only to a lesser extent intended to enable funding in non-Erasmus partner countries, such as the United Kingdom. DAAD will work with the higher education institutions to develop alternative access routes and financing models for students by 2023.
- Negotiations on cooperation models and waiver of fees are already under way at various levels. The British view is regrettably that a pan-European approach would contradict the core political idea behind Brexit, and national agreements are of limited scope given the financial self-determination of British higher education institutions. DAAD will therefore focus on seeking to advise and assist individual German higher education institutions and consortia with their development of exchange agreements.
- British higher education institutions will find it difficult to waive tuition fees for EU students. The financing model for study in the United Kingdom and the current corona crisis make it unlikely that British higher education institutions will grant extensive discounts. It is therefore all the more necessary for exchange models to have recourse to scholarship benefits that include fees. DAAD will seek additional funding to cover these costs.
- Mutual waiving of tuition fees will only succeed in small numbers of cases, and any extension of international mobility by British students is unlikely, since many still believe that there is a language barrier in Germany. Limited exchange in specific subjects can nevertheless succeed using this model and has to be negotiated. This is in essence to be approached based on institutional agreements between higher education institutions.
- The British Turing scheme is an indicator that the UK government does actually want to fund its students’ international mobility. The first programme year is designed as a pilot scheme, so German higher education institutions should work jointly with DAAD to develop exchange projects that include Turing scholarships on the British side.
- DAAD third country programmes, previously unavailable to the United Kingdom as a member of the EU, should be made available to an extent that is financially feasible and makes sense. This applies both to scholarship programmes after the end of Erasmus and to the funding of exchange projects based on grant agreements to German higher education institutions. DAAD is accordingly involved in close interchange with its funding bodies.
- Any increase in tuition fees will particularly affect German students without a scholarship. Albeit first-year students can now use the BAföG grant for studies abroad in relation to studies in the United Kingdom. DAAD is therefore calling for an increase in the coverage of tuition fees within the BAföG grant for studies abroad, especially to enable less well-off students to continue studying in the United Kingdom in future. This coverage is currently capped at 4,600 euros for one year. The BAföG grant for studies abroad should also be applicable to entire study courses, as for instance is already possible for Switzerland.
- The new visa regulations should be designed in such a way that stays for an internship continue to be possible. DAAD is additionally calling for the employment of academic lecturers recruited from Germany (such as DAAD Lectors) to continue to be possible. DAAD will cooperate with the Federal Foreign Office to develop appropriate regulations.
New normality? – an expert discussion on Brexit
DAAD is inviting experts from British and German higher education institutions to attend a virtual round table on 22 March to discuss its propositions. The intention is for this expert discussion to shed light on various aspects of the 'New Normality post Brexit' in British-German academic cooperation. The interested public is invited to participate in this discussion in English from 16.30 to 18.00 (CET). The audience can participate in the discussion via chat.