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University of Reading tells critics of refugee scholarship plans to “jog on”

The University of Reading has told critics of the university’s plans to offer scholarships to up to 14 refugees in the local area to “jog on” after apparently receiving some negative feedback from students and the public.

Developed in partnership with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) and Reading University Students’ Union, plans have been introduced to provide up to 14 university scholarships for refugees in the Reading area.

Last week the verified Twitter account @UniofReading tweeted: “We’ve had feedback over the last week that some people are unhappy with our plan to offer up to 14 scholarships to refugees living in the local area. To these people, we would like to say: Tough. Jog on.”

The university is standing by the post, saying it is “proud and unapologetic to offer these scholarships”.

However, some Twitter users have criticised the university for the tweet, with much of the criticism directed towards the language of the tweet rather than it’s content, including parents of current students who described the use of language as “crass”.

However, the response won the praise of many others, with one commenting: “Great initiative. I hope other universities are following your lead”.

There was also praise directed specifically towards the head of the university’s twitter page with one person saying: “Amazing! Promote whoever is in charge of your social media.”

“Stunning message. Makes me want to go to @UniofReading !!”, a third commented.

We’ve had feedback over the last week that some people are unhappy with our plan to offer up to 14 scholarships to refugees living in the local area. To these people, we would like to say: Tough. Jog on.

Members of the Twittersphere have also been asking about the possibility of donating to the scheme, to which the University of Reading has confirmed that there is a donation page for the project with the aim to “help provide a 15th refugee the opportunity to develop their career, their community and their society”. The donation page will be launched this week.

Pro Vice-Chancellor at the university, Professor Robert Van de Noort, said the scholarships are “another practical step to welcome and integrate all people into our communities”.

He added that they are “a welcome addition to our existing range of scholarships available for a variety of students”.

Deputy manager at RRSG, Gaby Couchman, said: “We work with a number of refugees in Reading who have a strong desire to engage with higher education in the UK.

“These are often young and highly educated people who have had their studies interrupted due to conflict and persecution in their home country.”

She concluded: “We look forward to supporting our clients into higher education and beyond.”

Leen Alnajjab, Diversity Officer for RUSU, said: “No matter who you are or where you are from, education should be an opportunity available to you.”

The UN Refugee Agency tweeted it’s thanks to the university for “being part of” helping refugees succeed in higher education, and drew attention to the fact that out of 25.4 million refugees, only one per cent have access to university.

Some of the criticism the university faced was based on the argument that the focus of those who should be granted scholarships should be underprivileged UK citizens. The university’s response included that information that there is already a bursary scheme in place for local low-income families.

The UN Refugee Agency tweeted it’s thanks to the University for “being part of” helping refugees succeed in higher education, and drew attention to the fact that out of 25.4 million refugees, only one per cent have access to university.

The university also confirmed that these new scholarships are on top of the ones that have already been offered previously, and thus the same amount of scholarships shall still be offered to local students.

They tweeted: “All the original scholarships still stand. The total number we offer can change each year with third-party funding etc. but the refugee scholarships aren’t taking money from regular offerings.”

Other universities also offer similar scholarship schemes to the one that has begun at the University of Reading, including the University of Warwick.

Warwick University is located on the outskirts of Coventry, which is recognised as a ‘City of Sanctuary’ making the city part of a movement “committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for those seeking sanctuary from war and persecution”.

Warwick began offering Sanctuary Scholarships in 2015 and will offer up to three fully funded scholarships for postgraduate taught students and up to two fully funded scholarships for research students starting in 2018-19.

As well as this, the university will offer up to four undergraduate scholarships to students beginning the academic year 2018-2019 who are seeking asylum in the UK and are not entitled to receive statutory student financial support from Student Finance England.

Another scheme run by the university is the WMG Bursaries for Syrian Students. Under this, all students with Syrian nationality applying for a WMG Masters Course beginning October 2018 will automatically be entitled to minimum 25% tuition fee discount.

The University of York, who offer their own Equal Access Scholarships, tweeted their support to the University of Reading’s new scholarship scheme.

Further universities who offer scholarships to refugees, those seeking asylum and people denied access to higher education due to their immigration status include Leeds, Loughborough, Bristol, Exeter, UCL and Sheffield.

The University of Reading has been contacted for confirmation that the verified Twitter account speaks on behalf of the University.

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