For Syrians studying in the UK, the struggle continues

They might be away from the violence at home, but for Britain's community of around 600 Syrian students, life isn't easy

As most of us delve unwittingly deeper into the academic year, for many Syrians studying at universities throughout the United Kingdom, the prospect of staying at university to complete their chosen academic course remains bleak. Despite attempts by the government, universities and other organizations to alleviate some of the unique financial obstacles confronting Syrian students, who are predominantly in England and Scotland, deep fears about the future of financial support are widespread.

Furthermore, the psychological effects brought on by the unrest at home have severely impacted many students’ ability to remain and study at university. In some cases, Syrian citizens have been forced to abandon their studies altogether due to illness and stress.

Past support

In 2012, it was estimated that more than 600 Syrian students were studying in the United Kingdom. As the events in Syria unfolded, many of these students were cut off from funding for their university studies from both the Syrian government and private bank accounts. The European Union’s sanctions against Syria also restricted the ability to access to funds in Syria in some cases.

Unable to pay fees for the academic year, many students were initially informed by their respective universities that they would have to leave their studies unless a guarantee of payment was received.

The Syria Students UK Fees Campaign was founded in 2012 on the back of these developments to help Syrian students in the United Kingdom facing expulsion from their universities for non-payment of fees. The following year, the National Union of Students threw support behind the campaign, and resolved “to call on all UK universities to waive or reduce the fees or extend the payment periods for all Syrian students affected by the conflict, whether sponsored or self-funded, so that they can complete their studies".

As Christine Gilmore, founder of the Syrian Students UK Fees Campaign, explained to The Independent, “while many UK universities responded positively to the campaign by waiving or deferring fees and giving Syrian students access to hardship funds, others did not, resulting in a lottery of support that means some students are still struggling to continue their studies.

“The campaign continues and we are lobbying the government to ensure parity of treatment for all Syrian students, a factor which would be greatly aided by the creation of an Emergency Fund to top-up the support available to them from their universities.”

Indeed, in the early months of 2013, following this advice, many universities, including the University of Leeds and Kingston University, took measures to ensure that Syrian students were not forced to leave their studies due to lack of payment.

Fresh fears

But in spite of the financial support offered during the early months of 2013, there are renewed fears among Syrian students and those who work with them about financial security for this academic year.

One Syrian student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has outlined some of the problems she faces in remaining at university: “I received minimal financial help last year – an amount that covered about a quarter of the second term of my second year… I am worried I will not be able to pay my fees, and hence will not be able to finish my studies.”

A wholly unprecedented situation in itself, the range of individual issues facing students and their personal financial situations is diverse.

Some Syrian students have taken up part-time jobs alongside their studies to support themselves and their families. One student told us: “I currently feel that my resources for meeting my living expenses are more limited. I have no benefits… and I am doing part-time work, which is about £30-£40 a week. My expenses per week are about £95.”

Psychological impact

And as the unrest rages on, engulfing the entire country and other parts of the Middle East in unparalleled tragedy and chaos, the emotional and psychological strain facing many Syrians studying in the United Kingdom has been detrimental to their studies. Some students have been forced to abandon their studies altogether due to stress.

One student studying in the United Kingdom explained the added psychological impact that financial burdens have had on her studies: “The continuous feeling of being insecure on the financial level, and on other levels, affects my productivity.”

Despite efforts to support Syrian students both within the country and abroad by other non-governmental organizations such as Jusoor, the fears faced by Syrian students studying in the United Kingdom are deep-seated. Pressure must be maintained on universities and the government to address these financial and psychological strains in the long-term, as well as for the current academic year.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own