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Strathclyde increases scholarship support for Asylum Seekers

Silhouettes of people walking down a street against a blue sky

The University of Strathclyde has awarded 10 new asylum seeker scholarships to students taking undergraduate and postgraduate courses this year.

The 10 new scholars join seven others already at Strathclyde who are supported by an asylum seeker scholarship. Since it was established in 2014 the scholarship has helped 34 individuals with their studies.

Asylum seekers would normally be classed as ‘international’ students and struggle to find funding for their studies.

However, the University works with the Carnegie Trust for Scottish Universities to ensure that scholars who are selected for the programme have their tuition fees reduced and paid through the partnership.

The Carnegie Trust pays the undergraduate fees while the University covers postgraduate fees. The University, with additional support from the Trust, also provides scholars with funding to meet essential study-related costs.

Each scholar is also offered a mentor, a member of staff who provides informal guidance and support. Mentors are instrumental in helping scholars adjust to university life and iron out issues that arise during their studies.

Fabulous opportunity

One scholarship recipient who fled his home country of Iraq following the insurgency of 2011-13 is now in his final year of his degree.

He said: “The asylum seeker scholarship is a fabulous opportunity for me, and anyone, dreaming of making a significant change to their life.”

Another recipient who arrived in the UK as a 16-year-old in 2014, said: “Since arriving in Scotland I’d been focused on education as that was the only thing under my control.

“When I applied for the scholarship I did not expect to receive it. I was on the bus when I got the message that I’d be successful and I literally cried.

“The team at Strathclyde have been really, really helpful and I’ve been made to feel valued.”

The University considers applications for the scholarship from prospective students who hold an offer for undergraduate or Masters level study at the University and who are awaiting the outcome of an asylum claim.

Applications are assessed on the basis of:

  • The extent to which a student’s forced migration experience or status has been, or will be, an obstacle to their education
  • The potential for the applicant to successfully complete the degree
  • How the applicant’s proposed studies will enhance their development and/or their contribution to wider society.

Generous support

The Scottish Government’s New Scots Integration Strategy recognises that the integration of refugees on their arrival is not delayed until status is confirmed by the Home Office.

The Strathclyde scholarship is intended to support integration by providing support particularly to three groups:

  • Young asylum seekers (whether accompanying parents or unaccompanied) who have reached the end of high school or college and who, without the scholarship, would otherwise be unable to proceed to Higher Education
  • Older asylum seekers whose tertiary education has been interrupted by the need to flee their home country
  • Older asylum seekers who need to re-qualify to pursue a career aligned to their skills in the UK.

Undergraduate students who start their course as an asylum scholar and then receive a positive Home Office decision can move on to main stream Student Awards Agency for Scotland funding the following academic year based on their residency status.

The impetus for the scholarship came from Strathclyde Students’ Association and wide support within Student Experience and Enhancement Services for the initiative.

Ian MacLellan, Student Support and Development Manager, said: “The University of Strathclyde is committed to increasing access to Higher Education and helping those who have sought sanctuary in our country.

“Many of our scholars arrived in the UK as children and, reaching the end of their school education, find they cannot progress to University because their immigration status excludes them from financial support.

“With the generous support of the Carnegie Trust the University is able to help scholars overcome this barrier. Our scholarship leads the field in Scotland and is cited by Universities Scotland as a good practice model in their Refugees Welcome guidance.”

The University was recognised for the work it does to support asylum seekers and refugees when it won The Herald Genanalytics Award for Diversity Through Education award in October. The University shared first place in the category with MCR Pathways, a mentoring programme for care experienced youngsters.