Theresa May has praised the European Union scheme Erasmus+ ahead of talks with EU leaders. The PM also confirmed the UK will continue to take part in the student exchange programme for at least a year after Brexit.

The announcement will be seen as good news by thousands of British students who were unsure whether Britain's exit from the EU might jeopardise their chances of taking a year abroad at European universities.

European students can also study in British universities as part of the scheme.

More than 4,000 higher education institutions from 37 countries currently take part in the programme which also helps UK participants to work, volunteer, teach and train abroad.

Although British University exchange relationships with non-Erasmus Universities such as those in America, Australia and China would continue, students would likely find studying abroad more expensive. The Erasmus programme provides funding which subsidises the costs of study.

A lack of exchange opportunities with European Union universities could also be problematic for students studying language degrees.

Three million students had taken part in the programme by 2013 since the programme started in 1987. The most popular destinations for Erasmus programme students are Spain, Germany, Italy and France.

Still no long-term security

Although the Prime Minister's confirmation of the UK's participation until 2020 will bring relief for many current students, the long-term future of the UK's role in the scheme remains unclear.

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It is believed the UK's long-term involvement in Erasmus will be discussed during the next stage of Brexit negotiations with EU leaders.

Students will hope that a deal can be reached for the UK similar to that of other non-European Union participant countries like Norway, Iceland and Turkey. A UK deal may be controversial, however, after Switzerland was suspended from the Erasmus programme following the country's 2015 vote in favour of limiting the immigration of EU citizens into the country.

In 2014, the Erasmus programme, which started in 1987, became Erasmus+ and combined a number of different EU education schemes. Erasmus+ has a total budget of €14.7 Billion for use between 2014 and 2020.

Erasmus 'goals' to be achieved by 2020 include exchanging two million higher education students within Erasmus+ programme countries, giving 500,000 young people the chance to volunteer abroad and raising EU higher education attainment from 32% to 40%.

The importance of Erasmus has been referenced by students and UK universities as a reason that a 'no-deal' Brexit would be a disaster. The UK's future relationship with Erasmus will need to be negotiated or it will simply be removed from the programme.