How University action and support is helping refugees and asylum seekers to build a better life
In 2020 Bath became a University of Sanctuary in recognition for our efforts to welcome refugee students, including through our Sanctuary Scholarship.
Behind every refugee and asylum statistic there is a person. Here, one MBA student reflects on his journey from Iran to the UK and now studying with us at the University of Bath thanks to a Sanctuary Scholarship.
A hard journey to Bath
“Coming to the UK as a refugee is almost always the same: It’s a long, hard, difficult journey. It’s about luck and chance. But when you are here, your story can be different. There are opportunities, especially through education”, says Bob (not his real name), who began studying on the Bath MBA course this September.
Originally from Iran, a trained accountant by background and a former manager in a large firm in its capital Tehran, Bob (40) arrived in the UK in 2018 having fled the country to escape religious persecution. He reflects on the momentous shift which first brought him to London, a perilous journey out of Iran to get here, and adapting to a new life where everything – customs, culture, traditions and systems – were different.
“When you come to a new country as a refugee, everything is new. There are lots of struggles, even for simple things. Normally people step back and isolate, but I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be part of society, and to learn.”
Bob’s story is one of remarkable resilience and determination in the face of adversity. After a series of low-paying jobs in London, coupled with volunteering for local charities and his church, he started to contemplate education opportunities.
Before the pandemic hit, he made extensive use of public libraries to prepare for an IELTS exam (International English Language Testing System), whilst embarking on an online course to translate his accountancy skills from Iran to a qualification recognised here in the UK.
It was then he also started to consider scholarship possibilities for further study and came across the Sanctuary Scholarship at Bath – direct financial support and assistance offered by the University covering taught postgraduate fees, plus a bursary for living costs.
“I saw the MBA as an opportunity to help me get my life back on track, and this scholarship and bursary made it possible”, he says. Having applied in 2019, Bob started the intensive, world-renowned course with our School of Management this September. Following difficult years where he felt he had lost everything, he says the scholarship has helped him regain part of his identity: “Being awarded this scholarship said, ‘someone believes in you’. It was very important for that reason,” he says.
The course has also given him an unparalleled opportunity to learn about business and society among a cohort of students from nearly 50 countries. He speaks passionately about the welcome he has felt both here in Bath and previously living in London too. “I have found people in the UK very open, very friendly and very helpful. And for my course, it’s amazing to see different ideas from so many different perspectives. In the UK, you truly see things globally.”
A positive ripple effect
Bob is now channelling these positive experiences to help others facing similar challenges. “It’s all about the chain – helping others along the way – which is something I do now and will do in the future.” He already volunteers for a range of organisations and is committed to give back when his studies are complete in 2021 too. “The course is helping me to build my life again, and I want to use it to help others in similar situations.”
Bob is our fifth Sanctuary Scholar and the only this year – two students benefited from the scheme in 2018/19 and a further two in 2019/20. There are also currently 12 undergraduate Refugee Bursary recipients (five of whom also benefit from our Gold Scholarship Programme), in addition to seven other current postgraduate students from a refugee background.
These initiatives, which crucially also include additional pastoral and academic support, are just one reason why Bath was recognised as a University of Sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers by the charity City of Sanctuary earlier this year.
More information on support available
- In June 2017, the University introduced two Postgraduate (PG) Taught Sanctuary Scholarships open to asylum seekers in the UK. These scholarships, worth more than £15,000 each, are jointly funded by alumni donations including Stuart Appleton, Bath UCU branch, and the University International Relations Office, while academic departments are providing full tuition fee waivers.
- Our undergraduate students with Refugee or Humanitarian Protection status are also supported with a guaranteed place in University accommodation for the duration of their course, a non-repayable bursary of £1,000 a year, £1,000 to help with start-up costs and £1,000 on graduation, as well as access to means-tested bursaries and support. These include the Gold Scholarship Programme (GSP), Bath Bursary and Income Related Scholarships. One Gold Scholarship each year is ring-fenced specifically for refugee applicants
- In addition, all refugee and asylum students at Bath are offered specialist advice and guidance throughout their studies from the Student Retention & Success Team within Student Services. This gives them a named point of contact to talk through any queries or concerns and access to support from across the University. The team also work with other vulnerable groups of students and have links with external organisations that can also offer additional support.
This is not the life I expected… but this course is helping me to build my life again. I want to use it help others.‘Bob’, Bath MBA Student and Sanctuary Scholar
Read more about Sanctuary at Bath
This article was originally published on the University of Bath website. Bob’s name has been changed to protect his identity. This interview was conducted in November 2020.
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