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Syrian refugees arrive at Sussex

Photo © Russell Watkins/DFID (CC BY 2.0)

Thanks to a collaboration between the University of Sussex and the generous support of Sussex alumni, the first 15 Syrian refugee scholars have arrived on campus and have started their English-language courses. Studying for between 15 and 21 hours a week, the scholars are attending classes that are specifically tailored to their ability to speak English.

The provision of these courses is particularly meaningful in light of the findings of Sussex academics who have been carrying out a three-year study of over 280 refugees who came to the UK under the government’s resettlement scheme, the Gateway Protection Programme. Their findings have revealed how the system is failing some of these most vulnerable members of society through inadequacies in the provision of English classes.

Linda Morrice, a senior lecturer in education at Sussex who carried out part of the analysis with colleagues, highlighted the importance of learning English for refugees:

“Overwhelmingly we found people wanted to learn the language and found that this was absolutely vital to their integration, work and independence. More than anything they wanted to have a plan and a future here.”

Explaining the importance of language lessons, Linda added: “We want to emphasise that refugees cannot be expected to learn English simply through contact with English speakers. Our results clearly show language skills are needed before meaningful contacts can be made and that this in turn increases refugee wellbeing.”

In addition to learning English, and in the true ethos of Sussex, the scholars are also being offered the opportunity to integrate into life here at the University by attending coffee mornings hosted by the International School.

Following this very positive start, Sussex is looking to offer a further 35 places to other Syrian refugees, having expanded the scheme to include students wishing to continue to study or work, and opening it up to refugees in the Sussex area who have expert knowledge.

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By: Emma Wigmore
Last updated: Monday, 3 April 2017

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