Capita to run replacement for Erasmus exchange scheme, raising fresh fears for students

·3-min read
Capita to run replacement for Erasmus exchange scheme, raising fresh fears for students

The outsourcing firm Capita has been handed the job of running the replacement for the Erasmus study exchange scheme, raising fresh fears about its future.

The British Council launched the Turing Scheme – already under fire for being less generous and offering fewer opportunities – reflecting its long experience arranging student placements abroad.

But the contract has now been awarded to Capita, which is believed to have undercut the British Council, sparking suspicions that the move is a cost-cutting exercise.

The company will take over, until December 2023, despite criticism of failings in its projects overseeing army recruitment and NHS England administration.

Matt Western, Labour’s universities spokesperson, said: “The Conservatives’ plan to farm out the Turing Scheme to the private firm Capita risks selling students short.

“With the firm’s history of mismanaged contracts, students will clearly fear this government does not have their interests at heart.

“Ministers must now guard against providers profiting off students’ aspirations.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said: “The government has committed to funding the programme for a further three years, including with £110m for the next academic year.”

Before Brexit was completed, Boris Johnson pledged in the House of Commons that there was “no threat” to the popular Erasmus scheme.

But he then pulled the plug – triggering accusations that he was crushing the hopes of students who want to live, study and travel abroad.

The Turing Scheme was announced, named after the legendary Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing, but the details suggested far less financial support for many students,

And, most significantly, free studies in any EU country, plus some others in Europe, has been replaced by pressure on universities and colleges to strike deals.

It is understood that Capita will be helped by organisations such as the Association of Colleges, the Sutton Trust and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which has experience administering student scholarship schemes.

But the tender document says Capita will be the “single legal entity” to enter into a contract, suggesting they will have a limited role.

And the document warns funding could go down, requiring an ability to “manage a higher or lower budget for the future Turing Scheme”.

It is understood that Capita will be helped by organisations such as the Association of Colleges, the Sutton Trust and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which has experience administering student scholarship schemes.

But the tender documents says Capita will be the “single legal entity” to enter into a contract, suggesting they will have a limited role.

And the document warns funding could go down, requiring an ability to “manage a higher or lower budget for the future Turing Scheme”.

The British Council said: “We are proud to have launched the Turing scheme in February 2021 and supported £98.5m of grant funding in the inaugural year of the Turing scheme, including 41,024 participants, of which 48% are identified as coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

The DfE added: “The Turing Scheme is creating life-changing opportunities for over 40,000 students to work and study across the globe this academic year – with nearly half of all placements going to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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