• Morgan Fagg

The Enigmatic Turing Scheme

Updated: Mar 22

I find it a bit of an enigma to call the British Erasmus program the Turing Scheme and I don't mean that it is a mystery, I mean I think that it is akin to calling the programme the Spitfire Scheme, Winston's World or the Barns Wallis Bouncing Bomb programme.

Maybe I should spell this programme as program as the American spelling is more commonly associated with computers than education and so is Alan Turing.

Whatever the programme it is clearly not going to be similar to Erasmus and the use of Alan Turing's name seems at odd with anyone looking for European cooperation. Erasmus was a Dutch philospher born over 550 years ago who studied and taught across Europe including in Paris and at Cambridge University. Alan Turing on the other hand is believed to have committed suicide in 1954, after being arrested for being gay and forced to take castration medication.

British Pride?

Turing's To Do list included defeating Adolf Hitler, ending the war early, inventing the computer and then committing suicide. His legendary life and wisdom is an incredibly tragic story about the secrets he kept, both personally and professionally that has really only become known, acceptable, and properly declassified in the 21st Century.

In 2001, a film called Enigma explored the theme of the codebreakers, and in 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch played Turing in the excellent film, Immitation Game which was based on a biography of Turing that was written in 1983 and starred Kiera Knightly as Turing's fiancée Joan Clarke.

Today the mathmatician is a hero and a genious but he wasn't always a war hero and personally I see him as a computer genious but not a symbol of either British pride nor European cooperation.

Please correct me if I am wrong but is Alan Turing really known as a European icon or as the man who cracked Hitler's enigma code?

He did not do it alone but as part of a team of codebreakers at Bletchley Park but I believe he did so much to design and build a machine that could help decipher the German enigma codes.

This machine, Colossus paved the way for other machines that became the computers we use today but to use Turing´s name in this way seems more like a joke than the respect he actually deserves.

Accoring to https://www.turing-scheme.org.uk/about/alan-turing/ "The Turing Scheme was named in honour of the renowned scientist Alan Turing. Alan Turing was a pioneering and iconic British mathematician and computer scientist of global renown.

An internationalist, he excelled academically and studied abroad at Princeton University.

His thinking continues to have significant impacts on our lives and serves as an inspiration." etc

Yes, he studied abroad, in Princeton but there was no need to leave Erasmus when Europe was happy to keep things the way they were. Unlike Enigma, the British don´t need to try and break Erasmus.

What´s in a name?

Why not call it the Shakespeare Scheme or Sir Issac Newton´s programme for example? Why did they have to pick the one scientist so associated with winning the war? Considering the way he was treated by the British government in the postwar years, it seems cruel to reward him with this mockery.

Faulty Programme

It reminds me of the time, when Top Gear presenters were going to challenge their German counterparts and stated at the start that their producers warned them not to offend them by mentioning the war, then the scene cut to the three presenters being flown to meet the zee Germans in Spitfires.

In the clip you see Top Gear presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond meeting the legendary Sabine Schmitz and her copresenters in neutral territory. Schmitz passed away this week.

Just like the elaborate Spitfire WWII gag, The joke hasn´t been lost on me, Turing outsmarted the Nazis, haha but is that the way to launch a programme to rival Erasmus that has been in existence since before the Berlin Wall came down?

Boris Johnson might have a very British name for their programme and a well respected name but I fear, Brexit will make a mockery of the substantial capital that England has had, and that few people will actuallu benefit from the proposed programme.

Unlike Erasmus, I don´t believe that The Turing Scheme pays tuition fees but is claiming to aim at helping disadvantaged areas more who haven´t traditionally availed of the Erasmus programme. Yes Erasmus is European focused but how many students from disavantaged communities or from low income families will be able to send their children to Harvard or Yale if they couldn´t send their children to Europe in the past when they had free tuition.

Don´t leave home without it.

Leaving your own country to study is not an easy thing for many students to do especially if they have either family or work committments and I am sure many Europeans have used programmes like Erasmus to work on their English but if you want to study internationally and not in Europe then I suggest you don´t leave home without your credit card.

Since Dr Turing studied at Princeston University, perhaps people should take a look at the tuition costs posted on https://gradschool.princeton.edu/costs-funding/tuition-and-costs and wonder how students will afford $56,470 in academic costs and the compulsary Student Health Plan.

There is also the additional costs estimated to be $26,771 if you are there for 10 months or $32,125 in housing, food, personal expenses and books and supplies if you are there for 12 months so you better hope you are eligible for some sort of grant if you don´t have around $88,595 on you right now.

Great Expectations

There is an expectation being made that is also worth point out which I have taken from their FAQ section entitled, Can Turing Scheme funding be used to pay for tuition fees? which says,

"Turing Scheme funding is not available for tuition fees. There is an expectation that HE providers will agree tuition fee waivers with their partner HE providers, in order to facilitate student study placements. Cost of living funding, and travel funding where applicable, will be available."

Pardon me

The work of Turning was done in secret and kept top secret for decades and it was only in 2013 that Turing received a mercy pardon posthumously by Queen Elizabth II.

The queen´s lengthy reign only starting after Turning had been arrested and according to the BBC, he was convicted in 1952 of "gross indecency following which he was chemically castrated. He had been arrested after having an affair with a 19-year-old Manchester man."

To see his name used in this way appears to me to be as offensive as the Americans replacing a Japanese program with one called The Manhantan Project or Enola Gay.

Perhaps I am wrong but I can´t imagine that the program can easily replace the work done by the Erasmus program when there is no one who has done the scheme, to sell it. How can you compete with the internationally recognisable student scheme without offices and agents in other universities?

Maybe the success of the Turning Scheme will be an Imitation Game of Erasmus or a secret success shared decades later but except for Brexiteers hatred for Europe, I find the whole thing enigmatic and maybe there is more to this scheme than meets the eye but I honestly think I have cracked Johnson´s colonial code and in the visionary words of Alan Turing:

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

Maybe I am wrong and British students from disadvantaged backgrounds will arrive enmasse to European universities in their ageing RAF Spitfires. Tally ho boys, don´t mention the war.

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