University of Glasgow launches measures to help support refugee students

Acknowledging the current crisis, the institution describes how it reached out to help two Syrian academics

Aftab Ali
Friday 11 September 2015 12:27 BST

The University of Glasgow has announced plans to support refugee students who have settled in the UK.

Principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Anton Muscatelli, said the university will offer four fee waivers – one for each of its colleges – which will be available to applicants who do not currently qualify for free tuition through the Scottish Funding Council at undergraduate and postgraduate taught level.

Speaking about the continent’s current situation, he said: “We are facing a major refugee crisis in Europe and, as it has done so many times in the past, the university community is responding in a meaningful, tangible way.”

Professor Muscatelli added that the university’s Talent Scholarship scheme was also being extended to support refugee undergraduate and postgraduate students.

“I know that a number of members of staff have already expressed a desire to offer financial support to refugee students. I would commend this refugee scholarship scheme to them, available through the Development and Alumni Office.”

The university described how it has a long history of being a place of safety for learners, teachers, and researchers under threat or in need of refuge and, most recently, welcomed two Syrian academics – Muhammad and Joury* – as PhD students who fled in fear of the Syrian state and Isis.

Both took off during study week at Damascus University after students started to disappear and colleagues were kidnapped.

Muhammad said police asked him to report names of students who were ‘potential troublemakers’, adding: “They said it was either you or them. The campus was turning in on itself. It was brutal, merciless. Academics were targeted by the state and Isis alike.”

Travelling separately for safety, the university described how Joury was in the early stages of pregnancy, eventually giving birth in Kuwait. When their baby was just a few months old, Muhammad was imprisoned for overstaying their tourist visa and the family was deported.

After journeying to Turkey, the couple found themselves stranded with no jobs, no money, and a newborn child. Unable to afford the £25,000 smugglers were charging for the fake visas they needed to travel by air, the family was not ready to brave the sea. A chance hit on the Internet put them in touch with the Council for At Risk Academics which eventually led them on to the University of Glasgow.

Speaking of the university’s generosity and how it was the only one to help, Muhammad said: “We have experienced this spirit of giving and we know that the university has always supported refugees and those who need help.”

In recent years, the university added how it has offered its moral and financial support to asylum-seeking students by providing living cost bursaries to support them in their studies here.

Vice principal and refugee champion, Professor John Briggs, described how he was proud of the university for reaching out to help the Syrian couple after they were forced to flee, but added: “I know that there are many others who need our help.”

*Names have been changed

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