Five universities join forces to offer ‘wrap-around’ support to refugees

Institutions team up to offer scholarships as well as practical resettlement help targeting those affected by the conflict in Ukraine

August 1, 2022
Refugees wrapped in blankets stand in line in the cold as they wait to be transferred to a train station after crossing the Ukrainian border to illustrate Five universities join forces to offer ‘wrap-around’ support to refugees
Source: Getty

Refugee students will be able to apply for a scholarship at one of five universities under a programme that aims to offer more choice and comprehensive support to learners fleeing danger.

Students and academics from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus will be able to apply to the scheme, with awards based on their academic achievement, need and future aspirations.

“We’re saying as universities we don’t want to compete around this,” said Leonie Ansems de Vries, chair of the Migration Research Group and director of King’s College London’s Sanctuary Programme. The other institutions involved are yet to be announced.

“We want to share our knowledge, we want to share expertise and share resources to make sure we are in the best position to support displaced students and academics,” she said.

THE Campus resource: Simple ways universities can collaborate to bring more refugees into HE

XTX Markets, an algorithmic trading company, has donated £3 million to King’s for the initiative, 80 per cent of which will go on the Ukraine-related scholarships covering fee waivers and living bursaries for bachelor’s, master’s and PhD students, as well as postdocs, with the rest going to set up and staff a Sanctuary hub that will offer broader support.

Dr Ansems de Vries said the hub, the design of which is based partly on her own research, “brings together things that often remain siloed in universities”, such as practical resettlement help, research, advocacy, policy development and teaching.

“The fact that we're not just giving out scholarships, we're resettling people and giving them wrap-around support, that's been informed by research I've been doing across Europe,” she said.

The King’s Sanctuary Programme aims to help other universities become community sponsors and work together to help resettle families displaced by other wars.

Under this parallel scheme, King’s is hosting a Syrian family in London, the eldest child of which has an undergraduate scholarship to study engineering at the university from September 2022. Following the invasion of Ukraine, the university has been working with others to scale this up, with the aim of resettling 250 Ukrainians through universities.

Dr Ansems de Vries said her research showed it was important to address potential power imbalances between hosts and refugees, for example by leaving families to decorate their accommodation on arrival. “How can we make sure it’s as equal as possible and people actually have the opportunity to shape their own lives?” she said.

She agreed that being directly involved in hosting vulnerable families and looking after displaced students meant King’s institutional reputation was on the line but welcomed the chance to apply her own research.

“I think it's really important that we can keep challenging ourselves and keep checking ourselves in terms of what works and what may have changed,” she said.

The scheme is one of many ways universities and governments have pledged to support displaced Ukrainian academics since the invasion began in February 2022. The UK has also announced Ukrainian refugees studying at English universities will face the same fee status as domestic students. The first round of scholarships opened in July, with the first winners due to be announced in August ahead of enrolment in September.

Dr Ansems de Vries said the scholarship programme would not discriminate among Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian applicants, although the last were likely to be in greatest need and so most eligible.

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Reader's comments (1)

I wish other refugee students and scholars would benefit from similar opportunities..