Education Beyond Borders: The Current Situation

Felicia Altena, BA International Relations and Development Studies

In September SOAS decided to establish 7 refugee scholarships as a response to the refugee/migration in crisis in Europe, and in part due to the actions of other UK universities. Yet now several months later, the details of these scholarships are still yet to be finalized and it remains unclear who is actually entitled to them.

Originally, these scholarships were supposed to consist of fee waivers, which would not cost the school any money, and there would be fundraising for bursaries covering living costs through the SOAS Alumni and Development Team but the latter has since been suspended.

Due to the lack of development, SOAS Solidarity with Refugees and Displaced People Soc. has decided to spread awareness among students about what’s going on and written an open letter to SOAS in order to let SOAS respond to the unanswered questions and to continue the conversation about what they believe these scholarships should entail as well as.  The 4 requests to make the scholarships both inclusive and effective are:

(1) SOAS provide living bursaries for those who are accepted on this scholarship scheme through their annual budget, as this would be much more sustainable and responsible than the originally proposed fundraising. Since asylum seekers are provided £36.95 per week in NASS support and are prohibited from working, not providing living bursaries is unjust and exclusionary of those who face financial hardship.

(2) SOAS apply a broad interpretation of who is entitled to these refugee scholarships.

(3) SOAS provide full scholarships every year from 2016/17.

(4) These scholarships are extended to Foundation Degree Students.

Having a broad interpretation and providing living costs is essential because not all refugees have access to the same governmental support. Those with ‘refugee’ status are considered ‘home’ students and have full access to student finance and means tested bursaries, but those with undetermined or temporary migration status are considered international students so they would be expected to pay £16,000 per year. Therefore these scholarships should be open to asylum seekers, those granted Humanitarian Protection, those granted Leave to Remain as the result as an asylum claim, those granted Leave to Remain as the result of Article 8 – Right to privacy and family life and those who are considered Stateless.

Those coming to the UK as part of the Syrian resettlement scheme will only be granted temporary protection and thus if SOAS do not apply a broad interpretation they will fail to adequately respond to the current refugee/migration crisis. Although the number of refugees making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and Europe over this past year is unprecedented, this is not a new phenomenon and it certainly won’t be going away anytime soon. Because of SOAS’ unique regional focus, its variety of languages spoken, the multicultural and multi-ethnic student body and staff, the school should live up to its reputation by supporting these ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

Education Beyond Borders will be holding a roundtable event on Friday, December 11th in the KLT from 5pm.

If you want to find out more, please visit and sign the petition.


Post Author: SOAS Spirit

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