There has been much debate about how to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and beyond. That debate has also taken place at the University of Bath over the past few months, with calls for the creation of scholarships for refugees (“UK universities ‘should provide targeted support for refugee students’”, 25 January).
Although about 25 UK universities have offered scholarships or bursaries for Syrian refugees, the benefit of such scholarships is questionable, especially as government regulations often make it difficult for students to take them up.
The shared view of our community at Bath is that the principle of action is in itself not contentious. Achieving impact – and at scale – is the bigger challenge. In a thoughtful debate at the University Senate, we took the view that the university should use its academic expertise to engage in new ways in the wider region.
In late January, vice-chancellor Dame Glynis Breakwell and I visited Jordan. Being there underscored the gravity of the situation and helped to crystallise our response. Jordan has accommodated more than a million Syrian refugees, more than 30,000 Iraqis, 5,000 Somalis and Sudanese and has also absorbed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, granting the majority full citizenship. Jordan’s population is 6.5 million.
The strongest response we can make is to commit to a long-term partnership with trusted local partners. Our intent? To build the resilience of people and systems.
After our discussions in Amman two weeks ago, we now make a range of commitments to build that resilience in Jordan:
1. Working with a local university in Amman with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we will support the training of faculty to doctoral level, essential for the development of resilient systems.
2. We will commit to partner with the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan to conduct research in areas of national priority.
3. We have launched a study centre in partnership with the Amman Baccalaureate School to deliver our MA in education.
4. We will strengthen our partnership with the British Institute in Amman to develop research that can inform how governments, non-governmental organisations and other parties might respond to the long-term impacts of the crisis.
5. We will provide scholarships on our postgraduate MA education programme in Amman to refugees displaced by the crisis. These scholarships will complement work being undertaken by the British Council, which is developing English-language skills with refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon.
These are all new initiatives for the university. Together, they form a commitment to Jordan in its vital stabilisation efforts in this deeply troubled region.
Dame Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor
Colin Grant, pro vice-chancellor (internationalisation)
Peter Lambert, pro vice-chancellor (learning and teaching)
University of Bath