15 February 2018
SOAS University of London Director Baroness Valerie Amos CH has urged universities to work together to avoid losing the talents of a generation of refugee students.
Speaking at the STAR (Student Action for Refugees) and NUS conference on increasing the number of asylum seekers and refugees attending university in the UK, Baroness Amos said:
“UK universities are predicted to spend £900 million on widening access to higher education in the 2018-19 academic year. The overall national investment in scholarships and bursaries for refugee students is around £3.5 million – not even 0.5% of that total. UK universities offer 181 scholarship places nationally out of hundreds of thousands of university places available. This has to change.”
Left to Right – Emily Crowley (Dep Director STAR) Shrouk El-Attar (Cardiff University and refugee from Egypt,) Baroness Valerie Amos, Emma Williams (CEO STAR) & Tamara Smith (STAR, Equal Access co-ordinator)
Baroness Amos said universities must work together to develop a national strategy to give greater access to refugee students and urged Vice Chancellors to work with each other and with their widening participation scholarship and development teams as well as civil society to find practical solutions to the challenges refugees face.
Baroness Amos added: “Building on the message from many refugee organisations such as STAR, we need to bring together universities to develop a national strategy to replace the current patchwork, piecemeal institution-by-institution approach.”
“Higher education can be a key way displaced people can get on with their lives, and contribute to society. Universities can do a lot to facilitate entry to higher education looking at fees policies and scholarship schemes to expand access to people at different stages of the asylum and refugee process.”
Baroness Amos was also joined by SOAS graduate Ahmad Al-Rashid, a recipient of the SOAS Sanctuary Scholarship who left Aleppo during the conflict. In his speech, Ahmed called for increased availability of Equal Access. He said: “For me this [university] has been a life transforming experience. I wanted to get the opportunity to improve and thrive.
“As a human being you do not only focus on surviving – you want to thrive.”