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University of York launches package of funded initiatives to help refugees

Posted on 20 September 2015

The University of York today announces it is establishing a package of initiatives worth up to £500,000, over three years, to help refugees who are escaping the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria, North Africa and the Middle East.

The package includes the introduction of scholarships for refugee students; offering scholar rescue status to refugee academics; and developing a series of public events in partnership with York Minster and other city of York partners to raise awareness of the complex issues underlying the current refugee crisis.

The new student scholarships are made possible by a University decision to waive fees and by redirecting existing philanthropic donations to support student living costs. The scheme will provide financial support for three undergraduate students per year and will initially run for three years. Each award will provide a full fee waiver and a maintenance award of up to £8,100. The total value of each award will be either £23,780 or £28,200 per year depending on the student's programme of study. 

The scholarships at York will be available to students who are seeking asylum or have been granted limited leave to remain in the UK as the result of an asylum application. The scheme, which will start in 2016, will be kept under review by the University and could be extended beyond the initial three years.

The introduction of the scholarships demonstrates York’s commitment to the Equal Access Campaign, coordinated by Student Action for Refugees (STAR), which is asking UK universities to provide subsidised places for refugees.  In addition, the University will launch a new ‘Give As You Earn’ staff fundraising programme to encourage staff to contribute to the new refugee scholarship fund.

The University has also agreed a partnership with the Institute of International Education (the coordinator of one of the world’s most comprehensive global scholar rescue programmes) to welcome two refugee scholars to York (worth £195,000 over three years). This commitment follows on from a major collaboration in July 2015 between the IIE and the University, which brought academics from around the world to York to develop the York Accord. The Accord establishes for the first time a minimum understanding of the basic principles for post-conflict protection and recovery of higher education. 

The University is also working with city partners on a range of other initiatives, including collaborating with York Minster to host a series of public events to be held later this year to raise awareness of the refugee crisis. These include the development of a focus day exploring these issues within the 2016 York Festival of Ideas, and participating in a City of York Council hosted meeting to discuss how, as a city, York can best co-ordinate a response to helping Syrian refugees.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Koen Lamberts, said: “The University of York has a long history of offering a place of safety for people caught up in conflict and in need of refuge. Our commitment to helping refugees reflects the university’s core values of justice and equality. We are facing a major refugee crisis in Europe and the University of York will play its part in providing a safe and secure environment for displaced people to study, research and prosper."

Meanwhile, two human rights experts from the University have been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Urgency Call for proposals related to the Mediterranean migration crisis.

Dr Simon Parker and Dr Simon Robins, from the Department of Politics and Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) respectively, will conduct research with migrant and refugee populations who have entered Europe across the Mediterranean, as well as with the communities they have left in their countries of origin.

The ESRC projects, which total £1 million and are co-funded by the Department for International Development, will provide evidence to inform the development of policy and responses by governments, European agencies, and charities.


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