Making degrees more accessible for refugees

(Originally published on Career Camel)

Education in Britain is something that most of us take for granted. Despite the high fees associated with going to university, we’re offered help with applications every step of the way. We’re encouraged to apply, and once there, we’re bombarded with leaflets and contacts to ensure we have a good time. For most of us, our biggest problems for getting into university are getting the grades, and sorting out student finance.

For refugees wishing to study, it’s an entirely different situation. There are many students who attended Syria’s university and were part-way through their degrees before having to stop education because of the political situation in their country. For the people lucky enough to make the journey to Europe, their biggest problems are on an entirely different level. They are purely of survival – finding shelter, food, and keeping warm.

British universities are now trying to target these refugees who had previously been studying, or wish to start studying. University of Warwick, for example, has started a new scheme to offer 20 scholarships to refugees – both undergraduate and postgraduate. There are not many details available yet, except for the knowledge that 10 scholarships are in the process of being given immediately for this academic year (2015/16) and 10 more will be given next year.

The scholarships are thought to be primarily for postgraduate students wishing to study or research at Warwick due to staffing and recruitment matters, however undergraduate refugees will be given the chance to gain a scholarship for the next academic year.

The scheme is something which has started in various universities around the country – the University of Sheffield holds a similar programme, offering financial scholarships of £9,840 annually to fund living costs, as well as entirely covering the tuition fee. These are only available for two students each year, however the university is aiming to expand this in the coming years.

A different option for refugees wishing to study towards a degree is the Wings University – an online, tuition fee free university created by Berlin student Markus Kressler. Refugees can study a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a variety of subjects – currently computer science, engineering, architecture or business studies. The university is crowd funded and supported by world famous institutes like Harvard and Stanford.

There are currently 400 students at Wings University, and the founders are aiming to expand it to 3000 next year. This scheme is a much faster way for refugees to continue studying – rather than waiting months for diplomas to be recognized in Europe, students are able to start their education without any need for previous academic recognition.

A similar programme is The University For The People, another online degree programme that charges $100 examination fee and a one-time application charge. The university is currently open to 500 refugees, and those who cannot afford the fees can apply for a scholarship.

All of these options suggest that there are academic solutions for refugees wishing to study; a heart-warming sign that the world does want to help those in need.

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