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Turing Scheme: Disadvantaged Students

Volume 693: debated on Monday 26 April 2021

What steps his Department is taking to encourage take-up of the Turing scheme by disadvantaged students. (914734)

The Turing scheme encourages take-up among students from disadvantaged backgrounds, with additional financial support to make this opportunity accessible to all. Disadvantaged students can receive increased grants towards living costs and funding for travel-related costs such as passports, visas and insurance. We have actively targeted and promoted the scheme in areas of disadvantage, helping to level up the country.

Can I ask my right hon. Friend particularly about agricultural and technical education? Across the United Kingdom, young farmers clubs and our agricultural colleges are doing a terrific job and have built a global network, and have often been let down by previous schemes. What can we do to support the technical and agricultural aspects of this scheme?

I think we all know in this House that my hon. Friend is a great champion of agricultural interests in his Montgomeryshire constituency. He is right. This is an incredibly international business and it is important to learn on an international level, whether it is from our friends in Australia, in New Zealand or in many other countries. I would be happy to meet him to discuss how this could be done more, maybe through the agricultural colleges and universities that serve our agriculture industry so very well.

The Government have stated that they want more disadvantaged students to participate in Turing, so how does the Secretary of State assess the success of this scheme for disadvantaged students, and will he commit to an annual report to Parliament on these figures?

We have already seen a really high level of interest from both institutions and, most importantly, students in the new Turing scheme. They recognise that they want to seize the opportunities on a global scale as against being constrained by the European Union. That is why I have every confidence that we will have such an enormous success with the Turing scheme and it will be truly transformative to young people’s lives.

This is a Government of illusion. The Prime Minister said that there was no risk to Erasmus, then it was gone, replaced with the Turing scheme, which Ministers said would improve opportunities. But a quick look at the scheme shows that for cost of living, Turing offers just £490 of support—£140 less than Erasmus—while for travel costs, only a fraction of students are now eligible whereas under Erasmus+ all students were eligible for up to £1,300. In tuition fees, there is no support, whereas it was guaranteed under Erasmus for free. Could the Secretary of State just be straight with students and confirm that Turing equals Erasmus minus?

I am afraid the hon. Gentleman obviously is not very familiar with the scheme. Actually, there are a number of slight inaccuracies in what he stated. I would be happy to send him the details so that he can undertake some homework and understand it a little bit better in future.