Friday, March 08, 2019

No-deal Brexit and language degree courses

We seem to have been going round and round on the same merry-go-round now for nearly a year. No-deal Brexit will mean troops on the streets, food shortages, the selling off of the NHS, pet passports being defunct, rationing, chlorinated chickens, Erasmus withdrawn, job losses, planes grounded, driving licences no longer being valid in the EU, medicine rationing, loss of citizens' rights, EHICs down the toilet and roaming charges back, currency collapse and price hikes... Almost every article mentions a subset of these, so I thought I'd look at an angle no one has yet mentioned, because it is potentially pertinent to my family.

When Charlotte signed up to study Economics and Spanish at Glasgow university in May of 2018, her course starting in September of the same year, she based that decision on the 2017-18 Glasgow University prospectus that described her five year course, with the third year spent in Spain as a language assistant. This isn't the same as an Erasmus scheme, where you study abroad at a university. I know this scheme well, having taken part in it myself in 1987-88, when I was the assistante d'anglais at Lycée Jean Lurçat in Bruyères, France. (How many times I had to correct them when they referred to me as the assistante anglaise!) Here's a photo of my flatmate (the German assistant) at our school from '88!

I asked her when she signed up what would happen to the compulsory year abroad after Brexit and she looked blank. 'I'm sure it'll all be fine' was her standard response for months. Now the lunatics are discussing a 'no deal' scenario, she's upgraded that reply to 'I guess if they don't sort it out, they'll need to cancel it for everyone'.

In Charlotte's case this would be really annoying given she is a French national so actually would still have the right to work abroad, but as she pointed out, if only five kids out of 1000 have dual nationality, they are just going to blanket-cancel it rather than sort it out for those who are still eligible.

I can see several major issues with this. A long term issue I can see is this: Kids up to and including the academic year 2018-19 will have taken part in this scheme. Presumably a year or two into Brexit, the government will have negotiated a reciprocal agreement again meaning this can resume, so there will be a group of language students, starting with the 2017 intake and spanning two to three years who will have missed out on this. As an employer, wouldn't you give those graduates a wide berth, if they are the only ones with lesser degrees and no real language experience? So not only will they miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime, they will also be seen as lesser graduates when they leave uni.

Secondly, and more urgently, not for Charlotte but for the 2017 intake... These kids are due to leave the UK for posts all over Europe this September. They will already have applied to schools in Spain, France, Germany etc and will be receiving their postings around Easter. If the UK goes 'no deal' at the end of this month and all of these places are revoked every uni offering modern languages in the UK is going to be faced with a year of students returning to class in September that they have not budgeted for. They'll need class space, they'll need tutors and lecturers, they'll need to book university accommodation for the 2019-20 session that they had not expected to need. Student accommodation tends to get booked around now, at the latest, so many of these kids are going to find their placement cancelled, they'll not have a room for next year and none will be available. They won't have filled out their forms for loans or tuition fees as they aren't expecting to return for that academic session. It's going to cause complete administrative chaos in universities across the country as well as panic and heartache in the kids themselves.

Is there anything left 'un-fucked-up' by this government?

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