By Maggie Sawant, First Year Law
On Tuesday, 30 April, Student Action for Refugees (STAR) hosted a celebration of Bristol University’s 32 Sanctuary Scholars, with speeches and the launch of a refugee awareness video campaign.
The evening saw STAR launch its ‘I’m Here’ video campaign, made in collaboration with the University of Bristol Television Society and the Students’ Union. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the Sanctuary Scholars within the University community and tells of the experiences of three Sanctuary Scholars, in their own words and voices.
Amy-Leigh Hatton, President of STAR Bristol, and Maddy Robinson, of STAR National, also gave speeches regarding the achievements of STAR in campaigning for equal access to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers.
Jon Lightfoot, a member of the University’s Sanctuary Scholarship Working Group, spoke of the ‘transformative’ effect of the scholarships upon the lives of individual students, and hoped that the programme will be reinforced and expanded in future.
Other speakers in attendance included Sally Patterson, Equality, Liberation and Access Officer, who expressed the importance of diversity and a Sanctuary Scholar who voiced her immense gratitude for her ability to study at the University.
Bristol University is one of 62 Universities in the United Kingdom that offers ‘Sanctuary Scholarships’ to students from refugee backgrounds. These scholarships waive tuition fees and provide students with a yearly £10,000 bursary towards living costs.
Asylum seekers must pay the same tuition fees as international students, at a cost of up to £38,000 per year, and are not usually eligible for student finance.
The ability of both refugees and asylum seekers to access higher education is also restricted by difficulties they face in providing evidence of their qualifications, language barriers and limited understanding of the university system. Sanctuary Scholarships mitigate the barriers prospective students face.
Talking to Epigram, Amy-Leigh Hatton said: ‘We were thrilled to share an evening of celebration and gratitude with so many attendees last night. To see the room so full reinforced the significance of our scholarships and the support for diversity at our university. Our scholars are inspirational people, and I have faith that the video campaign will get that message across.’
Over 80 people attended the event, including students, University staff from Widening Participation and the Funding Office, as well as lecturers and the Pro Vice Chancellors of Student Experience and Research. Members of organisations such as the Somali Resource Centre, Freedom from Torture and City of Sanctuary were also in attendance.
Featured image: Epigram / Amy-Leigh Hatton
Do you think that the University could be doing even more to help refugees and asylum seekers? Let us know below.