Study finds grants critical for African refugee success

May 5, 2000

Do Study Grants Help Refugees Find Jobs? The Education, Training and Employment of African Refugees in Britain. Available from Africa Education Trust, 38 King Street, London WC2 8JS.

African refugee students who receive grants are far more likely to complete their courses than those who fail to find financial support, according to a study of their success rates and employment prospects in the United Kingdom.

A tracer study of 122 applicants for grants from the London-based Africa Educational Trust in 1993-94 - of whom 57 received grants and 65 did not - found that only 26 per cent of those without support from the AET successfully completed their courses compared with 60 per cent of those who had AET assistance.

Almost all the unsuccessful grant applicants who failed to complete their course (96 per cent) cited lack of funds - either to pay fees or for daily travel expenses to and from college - as the reason.

Most of the refugee students supported by the AET were able to find work on completing their courses, but mostly in restricted areas of the labour market.

Researchers tracked their employment records in the five years after they applied to the AET. They found that 79 of the original 122 had found work - but none in the manufacturing, construction, financial, banking or insurance sectors.

Most worked for supermarket chains, local authorities and community organisations - with 75 per cent in service, community or health-care work.

The results suggest that refugees taking courses in health care, education or social science may be more likely to find work than those who study computing and information technology.

Despite the patchy employment picture, the researchers conclude: "Study grants from the AET and other organisations do make a

significant difference to the

probability of a refugee being able to gain an educational qualification.

"Grants are also significantly and positively related to later employment, with those who had received grants being more likely to be in employment than those who had not received grants."

The study identifies language and a lack of understanding of the British "job culture" as barriers to employment, and drew attention to the lack of financial support to help refugees obtain educational and training qualifications.

The researchers admit that

the study cannot demonstrate whether the findings apply uniquely to African refugees and asylum seekers or to refugees generally.

They also stressed the need to establish whether British-born black workers "have access to employment in the manufacturing, construction and financial sectors", or if they "share the same constraints as refugees."

They called on the Department for Education and Employment to commission a study of employment patterns of refugees and ethnic minorities in different sectors of the economy to establish whether it was true, as the study suggests, that "certain sectors are not fully accessible to workers of all backgrounds".

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