The Scottish Government has held talks with the European Union about staying in the Erasmus student exchange scheme despite Brexit.
The transition period following the UK’s departure from the EU ended in 2020 and since then Scotland, England and Wales no longer participate in Erasmus – a programme that offers students the chance to study abroad.
While Northern Ireland’s access continues, the Scottish Government is reportedly exploring ways of keeping opportunities available here.
Last week, more than 140 members of the European Parliament, including German politican Terry Reintke, wrote to the president of the EU commission asking her to explore paths to keeping Scotland and Wales in Erasmus.
Scottish higher education minister Richard Lochhead said: “Losing Erasmus is huge blow for the thousands of Scottish students, community groups and adult learners – from all demographic backgrounds – who can no longer live, study or work in Europe.
“It also closes the door for people to come to Scotland on Erasmus to experience our country and culture and it is heartening to see that loss of opportunity recognised by the 145 MEPs from across Europe who want Scotland’s place in Erasmus to continue.”
Reintke told LBC News: “We believe that young people should be given the opportunities of exchange programmes and that the Erasmus programme is a great basis for that.
“I myself had the great chance to study for one year in Edinburgh as part of the Erasmus programme.
“And this is why we really want to look at all possibilities how this could work.
“The Welsh and Scottish Governments have already said that they are interested in this and as members of the European Parliament we now want to push the commission to look deeper at the matter.”
According to the Scottish Government, Scotland attracts proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe – and sends more in the other direction – than any other country in the UK.
Annually, more than 2000 Scottish students, staff and learners use the scheme.
Lochhead said: “I am grateful to Terry Reintke and other MEPs for their efforts and thank them for extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to Scotland’s young people. I sincerely hope we can succeed.
“I have already had a virtual meeting with Commissioner Gabriel. We agreed that withdrawing from Erasmus is highly regrettable and we will continue to explore with the EU how to maximise Scotland’s continued engagement with the programme.
“I have also spoken with my Welsh Government counterpart and agreed to keep in close contact.”
Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a UK replacement for the scheme which would include countries outside Europe.
The UK Government said the new programme, to be called the Turing Scheme after British scientist Alan Turing, would be better value for money.