Bayswater Foundation helps Universities design their own summer programme for refugees
“This programme inspired me because I was around a lot of people looking for a better life. I dream of going to university and improving my English.”
- Fahima from Somalia
Last summer, Bayswater Foundation ran a 2-week residential programme to help 47 teenage and adult refugees break down the barriers when accessing further education and employment. We are proud of what we achieved with the pilot programme hosted at the University of Nottingham last year, but realise we have only scratched the surface. From 2018- 2019, the UK offered protection to 18,519 people. According to UNHCR statistics, there were 126,720 refugees, 45,244 pending asylum cases and 125 stateless persons in the UK.
We have seen what a difference a programme like this can make for the participants and feel that there is more work to be done. Bayswater Foundation and STAR (Student Action For Refugees) have created a ‘How to’ pack for UK universities who are interested in running a programme in house. This pack outlines what we have learnt throughout the process and the steps we took to make this reality.
We were delighted in February to hold a meeting hosted by the University of Leicester and launch the pack with De Montfort University, Leicester Pathways, the University of Nottingham, the University of Winchester and City University London. Chris Smart, Access to University coordinator at STAR kicked off the session highlighting the complex challenges refugees and asylum seekers face when applying for FE. From classifying all those seeking for asylum as home students for fee purposes to offering scholarships to cover study and maintenance costs, STAR’s Equal Access campaign asks universities to facilitate the student journey for these vulnerable groups.
Later, director of Bayswater Education, James Herbertson, and project manager Jessica Dunks shared their experience of creating and delivering the pilot programme with the help of a refugee participant, Ahmed, and student volunteers Megan and Caroline from the University of Nottingham. Ahmed is now applying to study Computer Science at university and commented that after the programme he had a ‘stronger support network and a taste of university life’ which made him even more excited about the prospect of studying at degree level. Phil Horspool who leads the English Language Teaching Unit at the University of Leicester and Sarah Collins Head of Widening Participation at University of Winchester also gave an insight into the amazing work their institutions are doing as Universities of Sanctuary.
This meeting was the chance to come together to discuss ways we can make education accessible for all and share best practice. A taster programme is not a one size fits all but an opportunity for institutions to welcome those who need their help the most. We hope that universities will continue to strive for equal access and open their doors to migrants looking for a better future here in the UK.