If students haven’t had enough of the government’s increased tuition fees and bursary cuts, then there’s a new threat to university lifestyle: students can lose an opportunity to spend a year abroad.

The UK’s impending divorce from the EU- brutally laid out by Prime Minister Theresa May this week, is a sore point for many students anyway. But in the shadows of many millennial vs. baby boomer Facebook rows it would seem that there is real worry over students’ international opportunities.

A British Council Survey showed that 74 per cent of 18-24 year olds want to see Erasmus and other international programmes protected when the UK leaves the European Union.

Erasmus was set up by the EU in 1987 to promote student mobility in Europe. In 2014/15, the last full year for which data is available, 14,600 UK students went abroad at some point within their degree.

From the USA to South Korea – the prospect of a year abroad is often a huge plus to study (sometimes even a welcome graduation delay tactic). City, University of London, has 20 countries on its exchange programme half of which are within the European Union.

So what are the benefits?

The list of reasons why an exchange is beneficial is just as impressive. The opportunity to become a part of another culture encourages a wider understanding of the world, a growth in self-confidence, as well as improving foreign language and communication skills.

A year abroad can often mean the chance to study something outside your degree, or just as importantly furthering knowledge of a study area through another country’s’ viewpoint and teaching environment.

What’s more, according to another British Council survey from 2016, 83 per cent of students believed that study abroad had improved their job prospects and therefore believed they were more employable than those who had not.

And it’s backed up by the European Commission’s Erasmus Impact Study, young people who study or train abroad are twice as likely to find employment after graduating.

Go International is a programme set up by UK higher education to promote international study. Their 2016 report of outward mobility shows that within the 2014/15 cohort as mentioned above, France was the most popular choice.

Paris / PA
Paris / PA

Rosie, a student at City University, has recently returned from a year abroad at Science Po in Paris, “My Erasmus year abroad was the best opportunity I’ve ever had. I met a lot of people and learnt a lot of things I don’t think I would have otherwise.” When asked about the effects of Brexit, she said:“It would be so sad if other students and young people’s opportunities were taken away.”

The report, Gone International, shows that 61 per cent of respondents studied for a period of their degree in an EU country – that may now be at risk.

A further comment from Ruth Sinclair-Jones, Erasmus+ UK National Agency Director, British Council highlighted how “As the UK continues to be a full EU member in 2017, we’d like to emphasise that successful applicants in 2017 will be awarded funding for the duration of their project. We are encouraged by the Prime Minister’s statement that UK participation in some EU programmes, such as Erasmus+, may continue.”

So with a hard Brexit set for 2019 and with that the fate of Erasmus unknown, now may be the time to apply to apply for an exchange.

Go forth and explore – while there’s still funding available.