I am pleased to announce the latest development in the University’s response to the current refugee crisis: this week we agreed to provide dedicated funding, accommodation and support for refugee students.
Two PGT students holding UK asylum seeker status will have their fees waived and be given a £10,000 bursary, provided by the alumni fund. All undergraduate and postgraduates holding UK asylum seeker status will also be classified as home students for fee purposes.
All UG students with refugee or humanitarian protections will be offered the same means-tested support we offer undergraduates from other financially vulnerable groups, including a guaranteed place in University accommodation for the duration of their course and access to a range of bursaries and financial support. This includes the new Gold Scholarships, one of which will be reserved for applicants who are refugees.
An essential part of our support package is that all affected students - UG or PG, UK asylum seekers or refugees – will be provided with dedicated, professional support in Student Services and additional support across the university, such as from the Skills Centre and Careers Service.
The last ten years have seen unprecedented numbers of people displaced from their homes in the Middle East and elsewhere due to persecution, conflict and violence. The UN reported last year that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier. Most of these people have settled within their own country or in their wider region, with a fraction coming to Europe or to seek sanctuary in the UK.
The scale of the crisis and the human misery caused in conflicts such as in Syria is overwhelming. The challenge for individuals and for institutions such as ours is to do something meaningful and sustainable that will have a tangible impact. This is the driving force behind Bath’s strategy.
These additional provisions complement our innovative and sector-leading work to build resilience in people and systems in the Middle East. We are funding 12 scholarships in Jordan to enable state-sector teachers to undertake the PG Certificate in Education, working in cooperation with the Jordanian government. This project, led by the Department of Education, aims to provide training to support teachers working with both Jordanian children and Syrian refugee children.
Our University is also developing a new Masters in Humanitarianism, Conflict and Development, to be run through blended learning and a study centre in Jordan, targeted at people working for NGOs and local UN agencies.
I am also delighted that colleagues in the Departments of Architecture & Civil Engineering and Social & Policy Sciences have been granted £1.5million by the EPSRC Global Challenges Fund to work together on developing thermally insulated, low-cost housing for refugees in extreme climates. This is just one of several research projects we are seeking to develop to support resilience in the region in the areas of housing, education, energy and water.
We have also been supporting students from war-affected countries through the hardship fund and have secured funding - based on the strength of our regional strategy - for a PhD scholarship for a woman scientist from Balochistan, at the centre of the conflict in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.
This programme of support is only possible due to the hard work of colleagues throughout our institution - academic staff, professional services and students - who have worked together to produce a multi-layered approach unique to the sector. I would like to thank them for all their efforts.
I am proud to be part of a community which has shown such dedication and commitment to addressing the key humanitarian crisis of our times.