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Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister
Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education

First published:
22 March 2021
Last updated:

As we emerge from the pandemic in the coming months, and doors and borders reopen, the Welsh Government is committed to ensuring that Wales remains an outward-looking nation, which welcomes those who come to study or work here and embraces partnerships across Europe and the world. Our students and staff are vital ambassadors in promoting that message overseas, and their education and cultural awareness are improved in many ways as a result of spending time abroad – just as our education providers are enriched by students and staff visiting Wales to study and teach. 

For that reason, we were deeply disappointed by the decision by the UK Government not to take the opportunity offered by the European Union to participate in the Erasmus+ Programme for the 2021 – 2027 period.

Since that decision was announced, we have been working hard to investigate alternative approaches to build on existing, and develop new, international learning partnerships, based on reciprocity and mutual respect.

We are therefore delighted to announce today that the Welsh Government is investing in our future generations by launching an International Learning Exchange Programme for Wales. This will offer opportunities to learners, young people, educators and staff from the 2022/23 academic year until 2027, supported by an investment of £65m.

This is a down payment on our young people’s futures, offering opportunities to all, from all backgrounds. Securing these opportunities is particularly important in the context of the difficulties experienced by young people and learners across Wales as a result of the pandemic.

The Programme will create a wide range of international educational exchanges involving both physical mobility and strategic partnerships. This will ensure that all the benefits our learners and staff have enjoyed in the past from Erasmus+ continue to be available in the future – and going further, to build new opportunities. There will be a strong emphasis on supporting all educational settings including youth work organisations and on both learners and staff. A fundamental principle of the Programme will be reciprocity between Welsh institutions and those overseas, both within Europe and further afield.

The detailed work to design and deliver the Programme will be undertaken by the host organisation, Cardiff University, working in partnership with an Advisory Board involving all relevant stakeholders. This is a complex and challenging as well as an exciting task, and we are grateful to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Riordan and the University for agreeing to lead this work.

In summary the Programme will:

  • Enable reciprocal exchanges (whether based on physical mobility or co-operation remotely) between educational and training institutions as well as youth work settings in Wales and internationally;
  • Support, as far as possible, the entire range of activities which have been available to learners in Wales under the EU's Erasmus+ programme 2014 - 2020;
  • Build on the success of Global Wales in developing links with priority countries across the world, including the US, Vietnam and India, and supporting an ambitious range of scholarships that will attract the best and brightest students from across the world to study in Wales;
  • Ensure that opportunities are available to the widest range of learners and young people, including underrepresented groups, those with additional learning needs and protected characteristics;
  • Include additional flexibilities, notably allowing for shorter exchanges involving higher education;
  • Support capacity building necessary to facilitate a wide range of participation in the Programme;
  • Potentially, support exploratory exchanges to broker international research partnerships,;
  • Align closely with our International Strategy.

Supporting international mobility is a priority for Wales given the evidence that participation in international mobility delivers academic, personal, career and employability benefits to participants as well as the wider economic benefits of international exchange. International mobility and exchange will also play an essential part in ensuring that collaboration with organisations across Europe and beyond is able to continue and flourish despite the detrimental impact in recent years of Brexit, the UK Government’s decision not to participate in Erasmus+, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spending time studying, volunteering or on work placements abroad broadens horizons, expands key skills and brings benefits to communities and organisations here in Wales. We are determined to ensure that young people across our country – from all backgrounds – benefit from these opportunities. By investing in this Programme now, we are investing in a strong, international and prosperous future for all young people in Wales.