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Somerville College announces new postgraduate scholarship for refugees

Somerville College has announced that it is launching a new refugee scholarship.

The scholarship will offer a fully funded place to study at Somerville on a postgraduate programme from October 2020.

It intends to provide support to “outstanding scholars” whose education has been disrupted by forced migration.

While the programme will only be launched in the interests of postgraduate studies, there are hopes to expand and include undergraduate study at a later date.

According to the UNHCR, while half of refugees worldwide are under 18, only 3 per cent enter higher education, with funding being a major barrier.

Somerville’s scholarship will be funded through donations from alumni, friends. The college announced the plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in February to maximise the support that can be offered.

The College also announced plans to seek recognition as a College of Sanctuary. The scheme involved pledging to provide the most welcoming and accessible environment possible for refugees and asylum seekers.

Somerville’s principal, Jan Royall, said: “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.”

Andrew Wood, president of Somerville’s MCR, said: “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!”

The new scholarship reflects the efforts across Oxford University to support refugees. Somerville joins Mansfield College who have also announced plans to create a new refugee scholarship and apply for College of Sanctuary status.

A student-led initiative, the Oxford Students Refugee Campaign, has also provided financial support for seven refugee students at Oxford.

Talisha Ariarasa, Somerville’s 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.”

Somerville Hall was founded in 1879, named in honour of Scottish scientists, Mary Somerville. In 1894, it became the first women’s hall to adopt the name of college. In 1920 the University of Oxford granted women the right to matriculation and to all degrees. Somerville presented its first candidates for matriculation and for degrees in October of the same year.

The college first accepted men in 1994.

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