After the University of Strathclyde became the first university in Scotland to introduce a bursary for supporting asylum seekers, EUSA (Edinburgh University Students’ Association) will encourage the University of Edinburgh to follow its example.
The bursary scheme, which came into effect this year, provides up to three students with free tuition fees and £2,000 to support them in their studies.
EUSA Vice-President Academic Affairs Dash Sekhar told The Student: “I think the bursary is an absolutely excellent idea, and something we should definitely explore [here in Edinburgh.]”
Complicated bureaucratic processes in the Home Office usually make young asylum seekers ineligible for student funding, making higher education less of a viable option.
The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) only supports students who submitted their applications to the government before October 2006.
The University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA), spearheaded by figures including Vice-President of Diversity and Advocacy Roza Salih, campaigned for the scheme, working with the University and the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) to make it a reality.
Salih said: “This will create life-changing opportunities for those whose talents might otherwise have been wasted.”
Salih, originally from Kurdistan, was one of seven girls whose 2005 campaign to raise awareness of asylum seekers’ experiences in high school was the subject of the hit musical The Glasgow Girls.
She has held her current USSA position for two years.
Regarding EUSA’s current position, Dash Sekhar informed The Student: “Roza Salih’s work in Strathclyde has definitely paved the way for other Universities and Student Associations in Edinburgh to propose similar schemes.”
He said that, alongside the EUSA President Briana Pegado, he “would be happy to pursue a similar deal. It is not something I had explored yet, but I’m excited to do so.”
“We’ll explore it with the University after speaking with activists from Strathclyde and a brief meeting to see where exactly to take it.”
Angeline Mwafulirwa, a 39 year old student originally from Malawi, is one of the first students to benefit from Strathclyde’s bursary scheme.
She has been seeking asylum in Scotland for eight years.
She said: “I am delighted to get this financial support. It means so much because, apart from adding value to myself, I am also looking at benefiting the wider community.
“If I get the qualification I will be able to help other people with human rights issues.
“I do that already, but this will give me extra skills and expertise and, without the scholarship, I would not have had this chance.”
Mwafulirwa is now studying for a postgraduate law degree.
The Scottish Government currently offers support for asylum seekers attending further education colleges, and particularly encourages enrolment in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.
However, this is the first time asylum seekers have been supported with a bursary in the Scottish Higher Education system.
There are a number of higher education institutions in England which already have a similar scheme in place, such as the main universities at Manchester, Chester and Salford.