Derry MLA Karen Mullan warns end of Erasmus exchange come Brexit will hit poorer students hardest
Derry MLA Karen Mullan has warned the end of the Erasmus European Union (EU) student exchange programme will disproportionately disadvantage young people from poorer backgrounds.
The vice-chair of the Stormont Education Committee made the claim in her maiden speech in the Assembly on Monday.
She was speaking in support of a motion to refuse to give to consent to provisions in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill which affect the Assembly's competence.
"I want to focus on education and the implications of BREXIT for our young people.
"Last Wednesday in the House of Commons 344 British MPs voted against a clause, that would have required the British government to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus programme after Brexit.
"The Erasmus scheme is an EU programme that afforded our students the opportunity to study in other countries.
"The impact of BREXIT on education, removes that option and will mean that people from the North will have to pay higher tuition fees if they wish to attend university in the EU," she said.
The Foyle Sinn Féin MLA said these changes could make university attendance an impossibility for many young people.
"There is no doubt that for the students, young people, those in training and staff who work in the education sector, the Erasmus scheme has been appreciated and beneficial for those who have availed of it.
"But at the end of the year regardless of a trade deal, that option will be gone.
"The Erasmus Programme has been acknowledged as a tremendous success for many young people and I would strongly argue that the benefits of the programme will be very difficult to replicate.
"The loss of Erasmus will impact most on those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities.
"I urge members here today to send a strong message to the British Government, that you do not have our consent to remove our citizen’s from the European Union," she remarked.