OU may paint a brighter future

May 5, 2006

Three years ago, Darush Morad, an Iranian student activist, was forced to leave his homeland immediately for fear of imprisonment and torture, writes Olga Wojtas.

He was an art student who belonged to a dissident group that used paintings and posters to protest against the Government.

He came to the UK as an asylum seeker, knowing no English, and was sent to Glasgow. He gained refugee status a year ago and is anxious to become an art teacher, but the jobs he has been offered are at the level of waiter or dishwasher.

"I can do that, no problem, but I will lose my skills," he said.

He has good English skills, thanks to tailored courses at Anniesland College. But a teacher-training degree requires a higher standard. Mr Morad also said that he wanted to conclude his studies at Glasgow School of Art.

But this week, the Open University in Scotland offered a ray of hope to potential students such as Mr Morad when it announced the launch of a ground-breaking website, www.diverseroutes.co.uk , which will go live at the end of this month.

Lindsay Hewitt, the OU's widening participation co-ordinator in Scotland, said there was a great deal of support and information, but research had shown that there was no clear overview of what was available and to whom. "This project is intended to fill this gap," she said.

Information on accessing higher education, financial support, credit-transfer facilities and English-language courses is aimed at refugees, asylum seekers, ethnic minorities and new immigrants to Scotland.

The information will be tailored for different parts of the country with the help of each area's higher education institutions and Wider Access Regional Forums.

"We want to give these people the chance to develop their skills and to put them to appropriate use.

"We do not want highly skilled people coming to Scotland and ending up in jobs where they cannot use their skills or are not being utilised to the best of their abilities," Dr Hewitt said.

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