The university said they will increase the number of undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships offered to refugees and asylum seekers. This follows the news that UEA was awarded ‘University of Sanctuary’ status in recognition of its commitment to offering support and aid to those in need.
The title is bestowed by The City of Sanctuary, an organisation which encourages action to assist refugees and asylum seekers.
UEA received particular praise for its scholarship schemes, educational events and collaborations with other organisations like the Students’ Union and Norwich International Youth Project, among other things.
Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Sciences, Professor Philip Gilmartin said the university was delighted by the news.
“Supporting asylum seekers and refugees in higher education is incredibly important to UEA,” he said.
“The scheme enables us to actively demonstrate our ongoing commitment to equal opportunities for access to education.
“Through our initiatives, we are not only creating wider awareness via educational activities and events, but providing direct support to those in difficult circumstances, who do not have easy access to education.”
The Article 26 scholarship currently offers two fully funded tuition places to students, undergraduate or postgraduate, who are seeking asylum in the UK and who are not entitled to financial support from Student Finance England or any other UK Student Finance agency.
The project, which takes its name from Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which the right to education is enshrined, is supported by the Helena Kennedy Foundation and has been in operation at UEA since 2017/18. The adoption of the scheme came following a significant student movement, covered by Concrete in January 2016, to provide scholarships for Syrian Refugees.
Indeed, UEA’s work as a ‘sanctuary’ for those forced from their home countries is longstanding, with the university also agreeing to defer the tuition fees of students affected by the war in Syria back in 2013.
One student who can attest to the opportunities which UEA has to offer is Enana Alasssaf, a 26-yearold Syrian refugee who came to Norwich after her undergraduate degree at Aleppo University was cut short by the scourge of war. Through UEA’s partnership with the Asfari Foundation, she was granted £21,000 to complete her degree, following which she now finds herself studying a PhD at the School of Pharmacy.
Discussing the experience, Enana said: “I was an undergraduate in Pharmacy at Aleppo University. When the war started, I began applying for different scholarships in the UK.
“The UEA had appealed to me because of the modules they offered and I fell in love with the green fields and lake… I had dreamt of doing a PhD for a long time and UEA was very generous to offer me a scholarship to continue doing my degree. The day I heard the news was the happiest day of my life.”
Looking to the future, UEA plans to introduce a University of Sanctuary Liaison Officer. The university said this role will “strengthen the excellent work being for sanctuary seekers at the university and with local partners.”