You’re supporting brilliance from every background

Dr Katie Bales, Lecturer in Law, Working Group member for Sanctuary Scholarships, talks about what this programme means for students at Bristol from the asylum-seeking and refugee communities.

We’re currently in the midst of the highest levels of displacement on record, with nearly 22.5 million refugees globally, and over half of these people are under the age of 18. They’ve fled war, famine, and natural disasters. These journeys don’t end once people arrive in the UK – instead people face a new series of hardships and hurdles as they struggle to get their life back on track. Too young, too bright to not have their potential realised, continuing their education can be incredibly difficult.

The financial barrier to education is hard to overcome. These days, if you want to go into any profession, a degree is an essential requirement. The Sanctuary Scholarship scheme here at Bristol helps refugee and asylum-seeking students overcome those roadblocks. And a degree gives these students so many more options – it gives them the foundations of a bright future. This scheme makes me so proud to teach here, and it makes me really proud to know so many of our alumni and friends have donated to support the scheme.

These donations have removed the financial barrier to study for these students. With that gone, a new set of possibilities opens up and students are able to re-imagine their futures. Alumni funding shows our students that they’re part of a supportive community. It shows our students that alumni understand the challenges and what Bristol has to offer – they’re giving someone the same opportunity they once had.

And it’s an opportunity our scholarship students are making the most of. One of our foundation students has just been offered an undergraduate place here on the Sanctuary Scholarship scheme. This student is always in the library studying. They’ve received some upsetting and traumatic news about what’s happening in their country of origin, but they’ve taken it in their stride, and focused on their studies.

Master’s student and Sanctuary Scholarship recipient Sarmad Ozan told me what getting the scholarship meant to him: ‘It allowed me to continue with my studies even when I was told I couldn’t because of my status in the UK. I’ve gained so much knowledge from the University even outside my course. I’ve played basketball for the University and attended careers fairs and skills workshops. I’m so grateful I was able to continue on to postgraduate education and I’ve grown in confidence as a result of the opportunities this scholarship has given me.’

It makes me feel proud that as a community we’ve established the Sanctuary Scholarship scheme. Stella Ogunlade, undergraduate Psychology student, volunteers with the scheme. This is what she says about her role: ‘I decided to become a volunteer representative with the scheme because I was interested in how it all worked. I wanted to be the student that scholars could speak to when they were having problems. I wanted to understand the barriers the scholars had to overcome and how the scholarship has provided them with the opportunity to continue on with their studies.’

The Sanctuary Scholarship scheme is truly life-changing for these students and it makes me really appreciate our alumni and supporters – I think it shows the strength of the Bristol community and it makes me proud to teach here.

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