On top of the hardship they’ve already endured, asylum seekers struggle with higher education opportunities due to their unregistered country status.
With higher education offering a lifeline by providing employable skills and empowering graduate futures, one London university has bucked the trend by offering 20 fully-funded scholarships for students with asylum seeker status.
The Compass Project at Birbeck, University of London, allows asylum seekers to complete a foundation year at the institution, giving them the qualifications needed for further study or employment.
The scholarship will grant a complete fee waiver as well as a living allowance for study resources, transport and childcare.
Attending higher education is often a primary aim for displaced students, despite only one percent of the 40 million displaced young people actually getting the chance to attend university, according to the Refugee Support Network (RSN).
The more we speak out, the more we are heard. Let’s get education for refugees higher up on the agenda. Share your #edustory with us. #withrefugees #WorldRefugeeDay https://t.co/5kcxcohlbm pic.twitter.com/gi39Mqy2nc
— Global Education Monitoring Report UNESCO (@GEMReport) July 8, 2018
Many asylum seekers arrive in their new country with no official documents, including their education certificates, meaning they face challenges taking their academic potential forward despite having the relevant qualifications, reported the RSN.
As well as the obvious financial benefit of being able to work in the graduate market, which levels out at GB£13,000 (US$17,000) more per year than non-graduate work, higher education has a profound psychological benefit in the minds of asylum seekers.
According to a report by the RSN, education provides asylum seekers with a purpose while they come to terms with their new circumstances.
Feelings of trauma and anxiety for loved ones still in danger can make it difficult for people to start building their new lives. Education can provide asylum seekers with a daily routine that improves their livelihood during these times, allowing them to accept the risk they took by leaving at the same time as justifying their decision, the report said.
The specially-tailored admission process and scholarship provided through the Compass Project overcomes the administrative and financial barriers asylum seekers face, creating an official springboard for them to find work in the graduate market or move onto another degree.
Amazing initiative by @BirkbeckNews showing why helping refugees and asylum seekers gain access to higher education is important #CompassProject #highereducation https://t.co/yNq97Wj3Cf pic.twitter.com/yMOKts9tBr
— Cara (@CARA1933) July 10, 2018
Caroline McDonald, Head of Widening Access at Birkbeck, said: “Many of Birkbeck’s students join the College through non-traditional pathways, and we are in a unique position to offer asylum seekers and refugees a course of study that is tailored to their needs.
“Frequently, asylum seekers will have had their studies disrupted throughout their lives. The Compass Project provides them with an opportunity to learn new skills and gain qualifications to help them achieve their future goals.”
The project comes after the Higher Education Policy Institute in the UK called for financial support for asylum seekers wishing to go to university, in May.
Currently, only students with refugee status can access student finance, meaning its in the hands of universities and governments to make higher education accessible for asylum seekers.
Dan McEvoy, Specialist Higher Education Support Worker for Refugee Support Network, wrote in the report:
“The Government should ensure no asylum-seeking young person wishing to study at university is excluded by insurmountable financial barriers,
“These include tuition fees charged at a higher ‘overseas’ rate and an inability to access student finance.”
Emma Williams, Director of Student Action for Refugees said: “We are thrilled that Birkbeck has launched this much needed and comprehensive new project. So many refugees and asylum seekers we know are desperately keen to continue with their studies at university and this wonderful initiative by Birkbeck will ensure they can now do so.”
Students who currently have asylum seeker status can apply for the Compass Project until Sunday August 13.