Treated as international students, asylum seekers are usually unable to study at university in the UK due to the high tuition fees that accompany learning and transport costs. A number of universities across the country have begun to offer Sanctuary Scholarships, where tuition fees are waived for successful asylum seeker applicants. In some cases, a grant towards learning and/or housing costs is also provided. These scholarships make it possible for more adults to have their right to education realised in the UK.
During the Coronavirus lock-down measures, all university learning has moved online, with students needing to access courses using their own laptops and home internet. For many vulnerable students this has been difficult, and it has been a particular challenge for sanctuary scholars. It is no secret that asylum seekers are not well supported by the Government, given only £5.39 per day (£37.75 per week) to live on. Home broadband packages and substantial phone data are a luxury that most asylum seekers cannot afford. Without access to internet or their own laptops, these students are unable to continue their studies, putting themselves at risk of missing exams or failing assignments.
On 25th March our Just Fair North East manager, along with colleagues from Asylum Matters and City of Sanctuary, wrote to universities in the region offering sanctuary scholarships to asylum seekers about what support these students need during the Coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Northumbria University have contacted all of their sanctuary scholars, and have provided financial support for students to buy dongles and increase their phone data. Teesside University have said they will contact all sanctuary scholars to provide support according to their individual needs.
One Sanctuary Scholar in the North East has said:
“Being a Sanctuary scholar and an asylum seeker I have got many restrictions. I live on £37 a week, which restricts me to obtain my basic daily needs everyday during the pandemic. All the study materials are online and to access online I need data. As I didn’t have the right to apply for the [university’s] hardship fund for the students it was quite hard for me to continue with my studies during Covid19 without the support from the university.”
You can read the original letter here.