A campaign to fund scholarships for refugees launched by an Oxford student has managed to raise nearly a quarter of a million pounds in pledges.
Postgraduate student Thais Roque launched The Oxford Students Refugee Campaign in October to help people whose studies have been disrupted by war or persecution.
She originally wanted to encourage fellow students to pledge £1 each month for two years, which could provide up to 20 fully funded scholarships if every Oxford student chose to participate.
So far 11,000 people have signed up, with pledges and donations exceeding £240,000 over the two-year period.
Roque, who is currently completing a doctorate in Biomedical Engineering, says her own education in Brazil, Germany and now at Oxford has been possible as a result of scholarships “awarded on the dual basis of academic merit and ethical standing” and she therefore feels strongly about giving back to “its diverse, wide-reaching community.”
Roque commented, “When one of Citizens UK coordinators told me about their plan to lobby UK universities to set up fully funded scholarships for Syrian refugees I knew what my role was in that: I would fight to turn Oxford into safe havens for students fleeing conflict-torn societies.”
“As a student myself, I believe that such a scheme will create a tremendous positive impact on these students’ lives. And with the added benefit of raising the morale of the Oxford student community at large: The Oxford Refugee Campaign stands as a flagship example of how much the student body can achieve when they are concerned about and committed to improving fellow students’ lives.”
“The University authorities have been very receptive to the ideas so far, and are willing to back the campaign administratively. They are not only administering our fund but also have brought our initiative into the Oxford Thinking Campaign as well as into the existing Give as You Earn schemes for faculty and staff.”
Now that money has been pledged to the scholarships, the campaign and Oxford University have identified 8 eligible students holding offers for the coming academic year.
As the campaign is yet to receive the bulk of funding as a result of monthly contributions, it is reaching out to alumni, friends and the general public to raise enough funds to support all 8 candidates.
The first scholarships will officially be available in 2017/18. Asides from the scholarships, “The Journal of interrupted studies”, which is dedicated to publishing academic work jeopardized by forced migration, has been published by two Oxford students.
Editors Paul Ostwald and Mark Barclay created the journal with the aim to “raise awareness of some wider issues regarding contemporary discourse around the refugee crisis” through “academic engagement”.
The first edition came out at the end of eighth week with a circulation of 1500 copies, which will be distributed in Oxford, the UK and Germany.
Mark Barclay told Cherwell, “We feel that the more refuges are condescended by reducing them to their capacity to stimulate pity, anger or horror the less the possibility for real exchange and sincere. It is this sort of engagement we feel will be crucial in orientating any approach to the crisis. Being students, the field we felt we could use our resources and connections most effectively, was academia.”
“In putting together the journal, initially our difficulty was finding refugees with academic work. Fortunately we were greatly helped by aid agencies working on the ground in referring us to individuals who might be interested. We were further helped by the first instances of media attention such as in Der Spiegel, which raised an awareness in Germany that led to many more submissions. It also led to us being spotted by the ACT now a foundation who sponsored our first print run.”
“We were extremely humbled by the warmth and positivity of its reception. Most heartening of all, we received dozens of offers from academics across Europe and the US who want to review future submissions on a pro bono basis. We are extremely happy and grateful with this result as it is stirring genuine and sincere engagement with what refugees have to say, on terms of mutual respect.
The journal, which has already secured funding for another print run, is looking to expand in Michaelmas 2016 with a larger editorial team to seek and process submissions.
Oxford University has been contacted for comment.