Refugee Week is a festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.
In 2022, The Open University (OU) has launched its first Open Futures Sanctuary scholarships’ programme.
The first cohort of forty-six UK-based students from refugee backgrounds have enrolled in the university in October 2022. Scholarships is one form of educational pathways that have been created to allow forcibly displaced people to access study opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them due to many well documented barriers (e.g. cost, lack of documentation, recognition of previous learning). Although highly welcome, scholarship schemes tend to offer a short-term solution to access higher education (HE). HE can be life-transformative and is seen as one of the most effective ways of supporting forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives and create a better future for themselves. It is however the absence of coordinated approaches to developing educational pathways to HE that compromises access to study opportunities for the forcibly displaced. This is reflected in the most recent evidence that shows that only a small percentage of refugees (6%) participate in HE (UNHCR, 2022). For universities to create the conditions that will allow refugees to access quality HE, as laid out by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4), they need to build partnerships and collaborative approaches that look at creating education pathways that will enhance refugees’ access to educational opportunities.
In this event, we will be joined by the CEO of Refugee Education UK (REUK), Catherine Gladwell, who will be sharing some reflections from REUK’s work with a group of third sector organisations and HEIs in the UK piloting education pathways. We will also hear testimonials from two OU Sanctuary students. Mr Nirosh Nonis and Mrs June Bodnar will reflect on their own educational pathways and the impact these had on their lives in the UK. The event aims to highlight the ‘lived experience’ of students who are currently displaced in the UK. It also aims to share and reflect on good practice currently emerging in the sector, especially considering the role that open and distance universities may offer.