How a SOAS scholarship supports refugees and displaced students

The SOAS Campus

This Refugee Week, SOAS scholars reflects on the transformational impact of the Sanctuary Scholarships. The scheme, which has run for five years, was designed to help improve access to higher education for people displaced from their home country who don’t have access to Student Finance.

Three students, Aminah, David and Abrar tell us about their experience at SOAS – and how the Sanctuary Scholarship changed their lives.

Aminah Hashmi, BA International Relations and Politics

“As a first generation immigrant, I moved to the UK at ten years old with my family. On a Discretionary Leave visa, me and my brothers’ were excluded from the governmental student finance support offered to British nationals. I saw firsthand how affected their university ambitions became, with years on the waitlist deferring entry. The Sanctuary Scholarship allowed me to start my university education – without which I would also have been forced to postpone and delay my education. 

“As a recipient of the Sanctuary Scholarship, the impact this has had on my life trajectory is immense. Through the scholarship, I have been able to start my university career as an undergraduate student studying International Relations and Politics. I hope to continue on further to Masters/PhD level and be involved with work within the UN. 

“During this first year of studies, even despite the Coronavirus pandemic, I have considerably enjoyed my time at SOAS. From my detailed lectures to the fascinating seminars, I have dug deeper into topics which had caught my interest outside of A-Levels. SOAS’ de-colonisation centred approach provided me with a rich foundation of history, politics and academic skills that I can build on throughout my university education.

“In my application for this scholarship, I discussed borders both as political creations and historically rich places. Borders between countries are always an area of rich history and complexity. The border between people within national boundaries is often overlooked. Particularly in a post-brexit Britain, one of these boundaries in the UK is the exclusion of non-british nationals to higher education. Education is both a privilege and a right, and this incredible scholarship has allowed me to pursue it wholeheartedly.”


David Akinboboye, LLB Law

“If I gave a billion thank ‘yous’ it would not be enough because of the impact the donation has made to my life. Therefore I have shared a few benefits as a way to extend my gratitude to you the donors of SOAS scholarship. 

“First, I am grateful for the thoughtful allocation of these funds so that I can further my education. 

“Secondly, just to let you know that this scholarship has given me a renewed confidence in myself. I am now determined about the future and to make something of my life, putting behind all setbacks of the past.

“Thirdly, the scholarship has allowed me the freedom to focus on my studies without having to think of money matters during my studies.

“Fourth, the scholarship has given me a renewed sense of hope in humanity and the courage to persevere. At times I get disheartened during term time either because of ongoing immigration appeal or pressures from studies but when I think of  the generosity  of you my benefactors I find the courage to go on.

“Finally, as a result  of this scholarship I now want to pursue a career as a Barrister (so I  am transferring to LLB Law next year from BA Law and Anthropology) as this will allow me the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way to those coming behind me and those who might go through the same hardship that I went through. Please don’t stop giving.”

Abrar Faiyaz, BSc Management 2020

“The donations made to the Sanctuary Scholarships benefited me greatly. In fact, I cannot really put into words how thankful I am for the donors’ generosity. Throughout the last year since graduating, I worked for a few months at one of the world’s largest accountancy firms known as BDO. This experience educated me on many aspects of professional life however, I realised that accountancy/audit was not really for me so I decided to go down a different path. I am currently working as a lettings negotiator for a real estate firm called Astro Residential and we specialise finding suitable rental homes for people with low income and/or receiving universal credit. I find this role to be very rewarding because of how grateful people are when they are given a place to call home after being rejected so many times by estate agents and landlords.

“Getting into SOAS was a dream come true as without the Sanctuary Scholarship, I would not have been able to join the university. Through generous donations I was able to become the first person in the family to be a graduate and for this my parents and myself are forever grateful.

“In the future I aspire to also be in a position where I can help people like myself get into their dream university and not have to worry about how they will manage to fund it. I believe education is a basic right that every person should have free access to but we know in this day and age that is not possible, therefore I want to help as many people as possible in the future reach their life’s aspirations.” 


You can continue to support SOAS through making a single gift. Find out more about how to donate. 

Share this post