From October 2020, Somerville will offer a fully funded place to a refugee student on a postgraduate programme. The scholarship is intended to provide support to scholars who have been forced to migrate from their home. According to a report produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2019, only 3% of refugees worldwide enter higher education, with funding a major barrier.

The report, Stepping Up: Refugee Education in Crisis, shows that as refugee children, of which there were 7.4 million at the time of publication, the barriers preventing them from accessing education become harder to overcome. Around the world, 84% of adolescents get a secondary education, while only 24% of refugees get the opportunity.

The initiative will be funded through donations, and there are plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in February. Somerville also plan to apply for College of Sanctuary status, an initiative which involves pledging to provide refuge to people fleeing violence and persecution, and creating the most welcoming environment to refugees and asylum seekers. This initiative grew from the City of Sanctuary movement, of which the city of Oxford is a part.

These initiatives represent an increase of efforts at the University to support refugees and displaced persons. Mansfield College have also announced plans to create a new refugee scholarship and apply for College of Sanctuary status. The Oxford Students Refugee Campaign, a student-led initiative, has provided financial support for seven refugee students at Oxford in recent years.

The Principal of Somerville College, Jan Royall, said that: “Somerville and the University of Oxford have a proud tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution and violence around the globe.”

“Lotte Labowsky, a classicist and a Jewish woman from Germany, escaped her native country after Hitler came to power and became a Fellow here at Somerville. She was one of a number of eminent German scholars, persecuted under the Nazi regime, who were assisted by Somerville. Her connection with us lasted until her death in 1991.

“I am delighted that we are building on that tradition by offering an opportunity to a student to achieve their full potential at Somerville. In recent years, the college has worked hard to engage with refugees in our local community, and I look forward to strengthening that further as we apply for College of Sanctuary status.”

Talisha Ariarasa, Somerville JCR President, said that “Inclusivity is in the fabric of who we are as a college and is a value we as a JCR work hard to uphold.

“We recognise that the circumstances into which you are born are factors beyond one’s own control and have a great impact on your life.

“The JCR wholeheartedly supports this scholarship because we believe that excellence is excellence and can be found in all pockets of the world and, as a college, we want to offer all those who can flourish at Somerville the opportunity to do so.

“We look forward to continuing to support refugee causes and are excited to welcome our new scholars with open arms.”

Andrew Wood, Somerville MCR President, added that “Somerville has always been a place that strives to include the excluded. The MCR is proud that we as a college are able to support such a scholarship and we look forward to welcoming our new scholars in the near future!”

While the scholarship is currently only open to postgraduate students, the college intends to expand the programme to include undergraduate study at a later date.

Lois Heslop

Lois Heslop is the co-founder of The Oxford Blue and was Editor-in-Chief for HT20 and TT20. She is in her second year studying Physics at Lady Margaret Hall, and hails from South London. Her other interests include classical music and opera, and she is currently a choral scholar.