Youth Voice campaign for access to higher education
Youth Voice is a sub group of Regional Refugee Forum. It was formed to give representation to young people from the region’s refugee community and to enable their voice to be heard. The role of Youth Voice is to raise issues that specifically affect young asylum seekers and refugees living in the region, as they face many challenges which their parents and adult asylum seekers and refugees do not experience.
Youth Voice will work and campaign for regional solutions to these issues.
Youth Voice is a group of young people from across the North East region, from many different countries of origin. We work together to highlight the issues affecting us today in the region. We come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and have similar and sometimes different experiences, both before we came to the North East and whilst we have been living here.
Our campaign for Access to Higher Education
Youth Voice is currently working on is Access to Higher Education for young asylum seekers. We all realised this has the greatest impact on our lives, as it is the route to realising our potential as future citizens and our future careers and ambitions.
Currently, while we work hard at school to achieve A levels, and aspire to study for degrees at University, our situation does not allow us to take up offers of university places. Whilst our friends go off to university and move forwards with their lives, we find ourselves left waiting, with very limited opportunities to spending our time productively. We cannot go to university, nor are we allowed to work. We have seen how young people have grown more disillusioned, more withdrawn, more angry, then more depressed, until they give up aspiring altogether. The situation is also devastating for those young asylum seekers who had just left school and started university in their country of origin, but the need to seek sanctuary tore them away.
The problem is that as asylum seekers, we are treated as Overseas Students, and therefore the university fees are very high. And, since 2002, asylum seekers are not permitted to work whilst waiting for a decision on their case. In reality decisions are taking many years – between 4 and 8 years is normal. So neither we nor our parents can work to pay for university fees. Nor can we apply for student loans Refugees are eligible for Home Student rates. These rates are more achievable, even in our situation. We might be lucky enough to secure bursaries, or to raise funding through sponsored activities or the generosity of community support.
So we have started to hold talks with the region’s Universities, to see if they could use the discretionary powers they have under to the law to allow some places for local young asylum seekers to be made available at home fees rate.
This has happened already in some other regions of the UK. Through the Brighter Futures Campaign, some major universities have used these discretionary powers to offer some places to young asylum seekers.
Since 2007, asylum seekers who have been in Scottish schools for three years have been eligible to attend Scottish universities as home students. In the UK, some individual universities, such as London Metropolitan and Middlesex have long admitted asylum seekers as home students. Thanks to the work of the Brighter Futures Manchester group, Manchester University also chose to amend its policies and has allowed asylum seekers to study as home students since September 2008. Manchester Brighter Futures has also successfully lobbied other institutions, such as Liverpool Hope, the University of Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan University and Edgehill University to develop bursary schemes at their own expense, allowing a number of asylum seekers to study as home students each year. From http://www.abrighterfuture.org.uk/ (Access to Education)
To progress this work we have promised to help the region’s Universities assess the scale of potential demand for places from young asylum seekers living in the North East region, who want to study at North East universities. This will help the Universities to consider their position and options. So we are looking for support from schools and agencies that know how many of their pupils or clients are school leavers seeking university pathways, and how many are entering their 6th form years with the ambition of studying at university. It would also be useful to know what kind of subjects they are focusing their ambitions on.
Of course we understand the need for confidentiality, so identities need not be disclosed. However, we would also like to invite any young asylum seeker to join us if they are interested, and come to our Youth Voice meetings.
Thank you. Lusi Manukyan, Leader of RRF Youth Voice