Helping Refugees get into Higher Education Update

Through a partnership with UCL Institute of Education and Reconnect, we are supporting refugees and asylum seekers on their journey to higher education. This short course will offer 60 places at the Institute of Education for refugees and asylum seekers who want to gain qualifications such as Undergraduate, Masters or Doctorate-level degrees at UCL IOE. The project aims to provide refugees whose education and career has been disrupted by displacement with a well thought-out and integrated assessment, guidance and induction services to enable them to make an informed choice, with practical support, for entry into higher education. The support includes:

  • A one-to-one tailored assessment, guidance and support sessions as well as
  • Induction sessions to upgrade their English language, study and ICT skills so they are in a position to meet the basic requirements for enrolling on higher education programmes in the UK.

Reconnect have been creating education and training opportunities for people with refugee backgrounds for 15 years. This new course will offer qualified refugees a chance to develop literacy in cultural practices and develop academic confidence, as well as making links with the students’ own culture and community groups.

The project is being implemented over the three academic terms beginning with the autumn term in October 2018. At the time of writing, the spring term had just started in January. A course (module) of ten weeks per term is being run with three-hour sessions one evening a week. In addition applicants, including unsuccessful candidates are offered guidance and support in association with Reconnect. 

It was anticipated that some 60/70 refugees would be recruited into the programme during the three terms with about 20 per term. The displacement refugees have experienced and the difficult circumstance they face can lead to disappointment by those not offered places on the courses so, the final decision about the suitability of applicants is made by the Institute of Education based upon a thorough assessment of the candidate’s suitability for the training. Unsurprisingly, drop out rates can be high for refugee based projects owing to the uncertain nature of their status and future prospects. For the Autumn term, although 20 applicants were offered places not all were able to accept the offer and others had to drop out for similar reasons. However, 12 participants successfully completed the module. The profile of the participants is:

  • Gender: 4 women (33.3 %) and 8 men (66.6 %)
  • Countries of birth: Albania (1), Algeria (1), Eritrea (2), Ethiopia (2), Iran (1),
    Lebanon (1), Nigeria (1), Pakistan (1), Syria (1),
  • Immigration status: Asylum Seekers (4), Recognised Refugees (2), Indefinite Leave to Remain (1), British Citizens with a refugee background (5)
  • Academic background: Masters (4) Bachelors (6), Incomplete Bachelor (1),
    and Certificate of Higher Education (1).

For the spring term, a total of 34 applications were received: 15 female and 19 male. Twenty-two were identified as suitable applicants, but 4 were not able to enrol on the programme due to personal circumstances. The profile of the 18 participants is:

  • 10 male and 8 female
  • From 15 countries: Albania (1), Ethiopia (2), Eritrea (1), DRC (1), Iraq (1), Iran (2), Ivory Coast (1), Lebanon (1), Nigeria (1), Pakistan (1), Sierra Leone (1), Sri Lanka (2), Syria (1), Turkey (1) and Yemen (1)
  • Immigration status: Asylum Seekers (6), Recognised Refugees (6), Exceptional Leave to Remain (1), Indefinite Leave to Remain (2), British Citizens with a refugee background (2), A Dutch Citizen with a refugee background (from Sierra Leone, resident in London (1).
  • Academic background: PhD (1), Masters (6), Bachelors (8, includes 2 Dentists), Diploma (1), Baccalaureate (1), A level  (1) and Certificate of Higher Education (1)
  • Age Group: 
    25 – 30 (2) 11.1 %
    31-40  (10) 55.6 %
    41 – 50 (4 (22.2 %
    51 – 60 (2) 11.1 %

The number of participants has been slightly lower than had been originally hoped, although interest has been high. It has not proved difficult to recruit candidates with the necessary skills and ability to undertake the module. However, the precarious nature of refugee status and accompanying difficult personal circumstances did mean that not all those who offered places were able to enrol. Not many students returned the evaluation questionnaires after the autumn term, although comments were very positive. It is intended that completion of the questionnaire will be a classroom task during the spring term.