The new initiative will run alongside the recently launched outbound Turing Scheme which covers the whole of the UK.
The International Learning Exchange Programme promises to enable learners and staff, from both Wales and those coming to study or work in the country, to access international exchanges that developers say will be similar to the opportunities from the Erasmus+ program.
“Our students and staff are vital ambassadors for us overseas”
Education minister at the Senedd Cymru Kirsty Williams said that for Wales the program signifies that the government is “investing in our future generations”.
“We have been clear that international exchange programs, which bring so many benefits to participants, as well as their education providers and wider community, should build on the excellent opportunities that the Erasmus+ program offered,” she noted.
The new scheme will run from 2022 to 2026 and will be supported by a £65m investment from the Welsh government.
“Our students and staff are vital ambassadors for us overseas, promoting the message that Wales is an inviting destination for students and partners across the world, and their education and cultural awareness are improved in many ways as a result of spending time abroad – just as our education providers are enriched by students and staff visiting Wales to study and teach,” Williams continued.
“By investing in this program now, we are investing in a strong, international and prosperous future for all young people in Wales.
“The main beneficiaries of the new scheme will be young people in upper secondary, for whom the challenges of learning from home over the last year have been particularly profound. We owe it to this next generation of students and learners to have the same opportunities previous years had.”
Funding will go to students, staff and learners across higher, further and vocational education and training, in addition to Adult Education, youth work settings and schools.
Unlike the national Turing scheme – announced following the UK’s exit from the European Union – reciprocity will be a “fundamental principle” in the International Learning Exchange Programme.
Money will be provided also to enable strategic partnerships and the program will contribute to costs related to inward mobility from partner organisations abroad.
In the first four years, the scheme aims to help 15,000 participants from Wales access overseas mobility exchanges and 10,000 participants come to study or work in Wales.
Cardiff University will develop the program over the next year, and work with an advisory board, before funded activities begin in 2022/23.
The institution said the program “secures the opportunity for global experiences for the next generation of students, across a wide range of learning settings”.
“We are sure that the scheme will be of huge benefit both for the learners and for raising the global profile of Wales as a connected, open and inviting country,” president and vice-chancellor of Cardiff University Colin Riordan said.
Julie Lydon, vice-chancellor of the University of South Wales and chair of Universities Wales, said the “bold” program for Wales is an opportunity that will “be of huge benefit, not only to the individuals concerned but to our universities and campuses, and the country as a whole”
“The reciprocal nature of the new scheme will provide key benefits for Wales. International students, staff and researchers play an invaluable role in diversifying and internationalising our campuses and communities at a time when retaining an international outlook is more important than ever.”
Vice-chancellor of Bangor University and chair of Global Wales Iwan Davies added that providing international mobility opportunities for students is crucial to creating an “outward-looking and competitive nation requires a skilled workforce with a global outlook”.
“We also welcome the ongoing support for the Global Wales Programme – an initiative which builds fruitful partnerships around the globe, capitalising on the strengths of our universities and supporting Wales to define its role on the world stage.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, this support will be crucial in enabling us to continue to build on relationships with our global partners, promoting Wales as an open and welcoming destination for students and researchers alike.”
“This is a down payment on our young people’s futures, offering opportunities to all, from all backgrounds,” the first minister of Wales Mark Drakeford emphasised.
“Securing these opportunities is particularly important in the context of the difficulties experienced by young people and learners across Wales as a result of the pandemic,” he said.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, the Welsh Government is committed to ensuring Wales remains an outward-looking nation, which welcomes those who come to study or work here and embraces partnerships across Europe and the world.”