More than 18 UK universities are offering scholarships and bursaries to refugees fleeing from conflicts. Campaign groups, such as Citizen UK, Article 26 and Campaign for the Public University, have all been calling on universities to offer support to refugees coming into the UK so that they can attempt to rebuild their lives.
Article 26 said that they were aware of 18 universities that are currently offering scholarships for refugees, while Citizens UK knew of another six universities. Article 26 have been working for five years to increase access and create opportunities for refugees in higher education. It points out that people who seek asylum are not allowed to work during the process but they are charged international student fees at universities, often making it difficult for them to go into education in the UK. They also provide guidance to universities to assist them with providing scholarships for refugees. Meanwhile, a petition started by Citizens UK calling on all universities to introduce scholarships for refugees has now gained more than 600 signatures.
Last week, IBTimes reported that four UK universities (UEL, York, Warwick and Sussex) were offering scholarships to refugees. Since then a number of other universities have announced their scholarship and bursary schemes for refugees, including University of Edinburgh, Salford, SOAS, Newman and Sheffield. Citizens UK estimates that a total of £1.5 million has now been committed by the universities following its campaign.
"I think we've made a really great beginning," said George Gabriel, community organiser for Citizens UK. "To have one and a half million pounds pledged within a month in terms of bursaries and scholarships is really exciting. I think we can do better and I think we can do more but it's certainly off to a good start."
On 25 September SOAS University in London announced seven new scholarships for refugees, starting in 2016/17. These will be made up of four undergraduate scholarships and three postgraduate scholarships, which come in addition to the scholarships that have already been set up for MA students from countries affected by war and poverty.
"We are glad to be able to offer these scholarships as one strand of SOAS's profound and long-lasting engagement with forced migration and refugees − one of the most challenging issues of our time," said Professor Richard Black, pro-director for research and enterprise.
University of Edinburgh has supported 14 students and many Syrian academics who have fled from conflict in the last year. Continuing that the university will be offering £100,000 in refugee scholarship support over the next three years, saying they are "committed to welcoming and helping those affected by displacement". The university announced on 2 October that an advisory service had been set up to support prospective students and staff with refugee status. The service will include helping refugees with English language tutoring, financial advice, counselling and assistance with the admission process.
"The university strongly believes in supporting talented scholars and academics seeking sanctuary in the UK," said Professor James Smith, international vice-principal at the University of Edinburgh. "Offering a refugee advisory service will assist refugees by pulling together the university community in order to offer assistance to people who have suffered such trauma."
Citizens UK and vice chancellors involved in the campaign are now attempting to hold a meeting with Universities UK to urge others to follow these universities' example.