Access, participation and success in higher education are rarely considered as priorities when contemplating ways to support forced migrants that is refugees, asylum seekers and others in need of international protection. Yet, education, including higher education, is critical to supporting forced migrants establish themselves in a new country.
Education creates life-enhancing opportunities, and helps forced migrants to shape their own futures and gain a sense of belonging in their new community. However, many forced migrants living in the UK are unable to avail themselves of such opportunities due to limitations placed upon them, such as their international student status or their ineligibility for vital student finance.
Many universities in the UK are working hard to facilitate the entry of forced migrants into highereducation, by offering scholarships and other types of support. The Article 26 project was founded in 2010 and supports universities in developing and implementing scholarships, and sanctuary scholars themselves, with the aim of maximising their participation and success in higher education. We are beginning the new year with the launch of a set of guiding principles that assist universities and other higher education institutions in enabling, encouraging and supporting the participation of forced migrant students in higher education.
Introducing the Guiding Principles on Sanctuary Scholars in UK Higher Education
The Guiding Principles provide the foundations for any sanctuary initiative designed to support the success of forced migrants in higher education. They are a vital strategic planning tool for institutions, tailored to assist them in establishing, sustaining or growing their scholarships and wider initiatives that support forced migrants at their institutions.
There are 10 main principles. These are:
- The right of forced migrants to access higher education – as is evidenced in international, European and domestic law.
- Equal treatment and non-discrimination – the primary identity of Sanctuary Scholars should be that of a student, and not their immigration status.
- The right to privacy – protecting the privacy of Sanctuary Scholars and preventing the unlawful disclosure of their immigration status, especially without their permission.
- An outline of Sanctuary Initiatives – Sanctuary Initiatives can vary in design and scale, but they need to be tailored to meet the needs of forced migrant students.
- Underlying principles for the design and implementation of Sanctuary Initiatives – Sanctuary Initiatives should be accessible, fair, inclusive and transparent, and give due consideration to the needs and academic interests of Sanctuary Scholars.
- Selection processes and removal of procedural barriers – processes need to be transparent, fair and accommodating.
- Communication – clear, effective and timely communication is key.
- Academic, pastoral and professional support – it is vital that Sanctuary Scholars have access to support services that effectively consider their specific needs as forced migrants.
- Student progress and participation – keeping track of academic and social engagement is important for maximising student success.
- Staff training – championing knowledge and awareness of the specific needs of Sanctuary Scholars among key staff.
The Guiding Principles are authored by Ben Hudson – Lecturer in Law at the University of Lincoln, and Rebecca Murray – Director of the Article 26 project. Their formulation has benefitted greatly from insights provided by expert gatherings of university representatives, students, academics and practitioners. Their development has come in response to the need for overarching guidance that supports the design and administration of clear, coherent, accessible and transparent educational initiatives targeted towards championing forced migrant students in higher education.
Sanctuary Scholars: Compendium of Resources
The ‘Guiding Principles’ are the first in a series of six resources aimed at providing the most up to date information:
- ‘Identifying Sanctuary Scholars’ – a guide to identifying the different groups (collectively described as forced migrants) that we encourage universities to include in their eligibility criteria for scholarship schemes.
- ‘Reaching out to Sanctuary Scholars’ – an outline of key outreach strategies for the promotion of sanctuary scholarships within universities, in the locality and via national platforms.
- ‘Who Needs to Comply?’ Sanctuary Scholars and Compliance – produced in partnership with Coram Children’s Legal Centre, this provides a framework to assist compliance teams to monitor forced migrant students studying within their institution.
- ‘Sanctuary Scholarship Standard Application form’ – a revised and updated application form and accompanying guidance notes to support universities in the establishment or review of their existing scholarship scheme.
- ‘Selecting Sanctuary Scholars’ – a selection framework built on and directly connected to the revised application form, which will support universities in the process of shortlisting, interviewing and assessing the specific needs of prospective forced migrant students.
In February 2017, universities and students from across the UK participated in a seminar to explore how policy and process in respect to scholarships for forced migrant students could be improved. A working group (comprised of university representatives, Article 26 student and ‘Let us Learn’ campaign representatives) was convened to take forward the production of this series of resources. The Guiding Principles underpin this catalogue of resources and will help form the basis of discussions to establish scholarships schemes, or revise and grow existing initiatives.
Achievements we’re proud of to date
Central to project’s work is the coordination of a higher education network, which offers support and guidance of what to include in a scholarship. They typically includes a full tuition-fee waiver and funding to help meet the additional costs of studying. The model of support designed by project was pioneered over a four-year period (2010 – 2014).
The project curates a comprehensive list of bursaries available across the UK that support forced migrants to qualify for university. For example, secure English language or intersessional qualifications, and opportunities to study at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
The production of a library of resources has been one of the project’s top priorities. In 2014 the project published ‘Education for All’; a comprehensive guide to supporting forced migrant students in higher education, from recruitment to graduation.
The eighth annual Article 26 conference will be hosted by Kings College London on the 28 – 30 August 2018. The conference is a three-day event: the first day is aimed at sanctuary scholars; the second day brings together sanctuary scholars, university practitioners and additional project stakeholders; the final day is an academic symposium on forced migration and higher education.
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