Minister meets Erasmus+ exchange students in Aberdeen

Efforts to be stepped up to protect further and higher education after Brexit.

The Scottish Government is stepping up its efforts to ensure further and higher education is protected after Brexit, including the country's involvement on the flagship EU exchange programme, Erasmus+.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead today met with a group of European students currently on Erasmus+ exchange at Aberdeen University

The future of Erasmus+ - the EU’s leading cultural and educational project that has run for 30 years - remains in doubt, now the UK has kick-started final negotiations over the conditions to leave the bloc.

The whole of the UK’s involvement in the scheme has been threatened since Westminster MPs voted in January against a clause to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill that would have mandated the UK Government to seek full membership of the programme. No solid plans for any potential replacement have yet been decided.

Proportionally more Scots take part in Erasmus+ than from any other country in the UK. Between 2014 and 2018, 14,000 participants from Scotland reaped the benefits of the EU-led scheme, securing over 90 million euros in funding.

At the start of this academic year there were 2,655 European students from 33 countries at Aberdeen University, and 709 staff - 17% of its workforce - giving it one of the largest European campus populations in Scotland.

Mr Lochhead said:

"I have been privileged today to meet students at Aberdeen University from Sweden, Bulgaria, Finland, Belgium and Italy, whose presence in Scotland benefits us all.

"It’s important that we send out a strong message to Europe that our university and college campuses are open, welcoming and outward-looking places, and that we really want European students to continue to come to study and live in Scotland. We may have been taken out of the EU but we remain a European nation and that must always be reflected in our higher education experience.

“Thousands of Scottish students, teachers and young people have benefitted from the popular Erasmus+ scheme, while at the same time our campuses and country have been enriched by EU nationals choosing to live and study here. This much-cherished and respected learning, training and cultural programme is at serious risk – and we are clear that it must continue. Over the coming weeks we will make the case strongly to the UK Government that continued association with Erasmus+ is of the utmost importance.

“In the event the UK Government decides to abandon the programme, we will also be looking at the possibility of Scotland associating unilaterally.”


  • over 2,000 Scottish Higher Education students take part in Erasmus+ each year.
  • 2018 was the most popular year for Erasmus+ in the UK so far. The UK’s budget for the 2019 call has increased significantly to €187 million (an increase of €17 million from the previous year).
  • the Commission has proposed doubling the budget for Erasmus for 2020-27 to €30 billion, tripling the number of participants and improving access for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • since the beginning of the current Erasmus+ programme in 2014 around 12,000 EU students have come to study in Scotland as part of the Erasmus+ programme• 8.5% of all students at Scottish universities were EU domiciled in 2018/19; a decrease from 8.7% in 2017/18.
  • Scottish providers have the highest proportion of EU university enrolments of the four UK nations (8.5% of enrolments).
  • EU nationals accounted for over 110,000 college enrolments between 2012 and 2019.


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