Asylum seeking students are to be offered scholarship funding by the University of Strathclyde starting this academic year.
This is the first asylum seekers’ bursary scheme in Scotland.
Asylum seekers are not usually eligible for student funding and have significant restrictions on working rights, facing difficulties and delays in progressing to higher education while they await a decision on their immigration status from the Home Office. SAAS currently only provides funding to students who submitted their application to the Home Office before October 2006.
The scholarship will be offered to up to three students per academic year. The financial support package covers tuition fees and other study-related costs, such as textbooks, equipment and travel costs.
The fund was proposed and campaigned for by the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA) and developed in co-operation between the University, the Union and the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC).
Roza Salih, USSA Vice President Diversity & Advocacy, who has campaigned for the University’s support for asylum seekers relentlessly during both her years in office, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that the University has agreed to help three asylum seekers to access higher education. This will create life-changing opportunities for those whose talents might otherwise have been wasted. It is also a great opportunity for those who have been barred from higher education to reinvest into society.”
She also pointed out that there is a lot of confusion in communication between the Home Office and SAAS. She continued:
“It is unfortunate that we have to take such measures, when the real cause of the problem is an immigration policy which effectively obstructs asylum seekers from higher education and this is an issue I will continue to campaign on.”
Ms Salih, from Kurdistan, was one of seven secondary school pupils whose 2005 campaign to raise awareness about asylum seekers’ experiences inspired the hit musical The Glasgow Girls. It led to the fifth and sixth-year pupils twice visiting the Scottish Parliament and winning Best Public Campaign at the Politician of the Year awards.
One of the first students to be selected for the scholarship is Angeline Mwafulirwa (39). Ms Mwafulirwa, who is still seeking asylum, is originally from Malawi – she has been in Scotland for eight years and now lives in Springburn.
Angeline is now studying a postgraduate degree in law.
She told the Herald: “I am delighted to get this financial support. It means so much because, apart from adding value to myself, I am also looking at benefiting the wider community.
“If I get the qualification I will be able to help other people with human rights issues. I do that already, but this will give me extra skills and expertise and without the scholarship I would not have had this chance.”
Dr Veena O’Halloran, Director of Student Experience and Enhancement Services at the University, said: “Strathclyde was founded as a place of useful learning for all, regardless of background or means, and we are proud of our long history of breaking down barriers to education.
“The Asylum Seeker Scholarships underline our continuing commitment to recruitment based on merit. They form an important part of our commitment to increasing opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to promote the life-transforming experience that success at university can bring.”
Elodie Mignard, Integration Development Officer at SRC, said: “When people come to Scotland seeking safety and protection from persecution they bring a wealth of skills, talent and experience with them. We welcome the University’s proactive stance in supporting asylum seekers to develop these skills further. Access to education is key to helping refugees successfully rebuild their and their families’ lives here in Scotland.”
Only students who are not eligible for financial support from England, Scotland or Wales will be considered for the new bursary scheme.
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