I’m seeing a lot of rhetoric claiming that the UK dropping out of ERASMUS is good because it “enables UK students to travel to better universities because only one EU university is in the top 50, and they’re 50th”

I’m no expert on university rankings, but five minutes of cursory internet research reveals this claim to be questionable at best. There are three major international university rankings: QS, ARWU and THEWUR. The “only-one-in-the-top-50“ “fact” spouted so readily by leavers is true of only one of these: the QS ranking, which list the TUM in 50th place.

ARWU is a different story, with the Paris-Saclay University in 14th place, the Sorbonne in 39th and the Karolinska Institute at 45th. THEWUR has LMU Munich at 32nd, the Karolinska Institute tied with the University of Tokyo at 36th, the TUM at 41st, Heidelberg University at 42nd, KU Leuven at 45th and PSL at 46th.

Additionally, Swiss universities are ranked highly by all three lists. While no longer a part of ERASMUS+, it’s in theory possible for EU student exchanges to be funded via the SEMP programme.

Apparently the UK’s participation in ERASMUS will be replaced with the tactlessly-named “Turing Scheme”, about which only vague details are available. Given the current governments track record on… pretty much everything, I don’t much rate its chances, but who knows.

There are many other holes to poke in the claim that leaving ERASMUS (and indeed the EU in general) is a good move for UK students, and that university rankings are the be-all-and-end-all of choosing where to do an exchange (variety? language choice? social/cultural connections?), but they’re more complicated questions. This particular claim was so easily debunked that I couldn’t resist.

Update: this twitter thread from a UK professor confirms most of my suspicions about the prospects of the Turing scheme.