College students are having their Turing and Erasmus international placements cancelled in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, FE Week has learnt.
The British Council told FE Week that trips to Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are suspended for the time being and wouldn’t be eligible for funding. Trips planned to the broader region have also been affected.
FE Week spoke to one college who said they have cancelled Turing trips for 12 students, who were travelling to the Czech Republic, due to parents’ fears about safety.
However, the exact number of cancellations across international placement schemes is uncertain, and the Association of Colleges stressed it is too early to say whether there will be widespread mobility cancellation as a result of the crisis.
Emma Meredith, international director at AoC, told FE Week that some planned trips are not going ahead, and that others will “no doubt need to be cancelled – particularly to the broader region”.
“It is a concern for colleges trying to plan visits about whether they can go ahead. In many cases, they may decide to postpone or cancel trips, if they feel it’s too risky for that to go ahead, because they wouldn’t want to compromise student safety.
“It’s about being mindful of what the partners on the ground are saying as well. They may say, ‘Look, even if we are 1,000 miles from the border, it’s not a good time’.”
Meredith stressed that colleges should follow Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice when making decisions on whether trips should go ahead.
She noted that some mobility trips may be scheduled for later in the spring or summer and not necessarily due to take place immediately.
She also said that FCDO travel advice can change quickly and colleges will adapt accordingly.
At the time of publication, FCDO advice was that travellers should not visit Ukraine, Russia or Belarus.
“We advise against all travel to Ukraine and that British nationals should leave Ukraine immediately if they judge it is safe to do so,” a spokesperson from the FCDO told FE Week.
The Department for Education told FE Week that all Turing Scheme participants should comply with FCDO travel advice.
The British Council, which currently helps runs the Turing scheme, told FE Week that the scheme is the UK government’s programme and so the delivery partner will always follow their guidance on such issues.
The delivery partner’s guidance to participating organisations states that FCDO travel advice must be adhered to.
This will mean that Turing Scheme trips to the Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are suspended for the time being and wouldn’t be eligible for funding.
FE Week asked the DfE for data about how many placements would be cancelled as a result. They said they were unable to provide this information, in part due to the sensitive nature of the situation.
Trips to the broader region cancelled
The Turing scheme is a student exchange programme established by the DfE in 2021 as a replacement for the European Union’s Erasmus Programme following Brexit. Last year, when it opened, 110 colleges and training providers were awarded funding under the scheme.
Greater Brighton Metropolitan College confirmed they had taken the decision to cancel an upcoming trip to Prague through the Turing Scheme in response to concerns from students’ parents about their safety. This affected 12 students on travel and tourism and business courses.
“In terms of Erasmus, we have a two-year transnational project with a college in the Czech Republic and one in Finland. In collaboration with the principals of these two colleges, we are assessing whether we should delay the remaining activities for this academic year to next year,” a spokesperson for the college said.
Other colleges said they are keeping a close eye on the situation and prioritising student safety.
“Oldham College has plans for a group of digital students to visit Aachen in Germany as part of the Turing Scheme,” a spokesperson from Oldham College in Greater Manchester, told FE Week.
“We are not planning to cancel anything at this time as our learners are not due to visit until June. However, we are watching the situation closely as their safety is our top priority.”
Sheffield College said it had two Turing Scheme trips planned to the Netherlands and Portugal which are due to take place this summer.
“We will continue to monitor the wider situation. The safety of our students and staff is our utmost priority,” they said.
The Turing Scheme recently opened registrations for schools, colleges and universities for the second year of the scheme.
The opening of registrations for the 2022/23 academic year, enables organisations to begin planning their applications to secure funding that enables students, learners and pupils, including those from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds, to undertake study or work placements around the world.