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Government urging universities to defer fees for Syrian students

By River Reporter Mar 7, 2013

Alessandro Iacovangelo

Cabinet ministers Vince Cable and David Willetts, the minister responsible for raising tuition fees to £9,000, have praised universities who are helping students fund their studies following the civil war in their homeland.

The Business Secretary and Universities Minister signed a letter calling for deferred fees and access to hardship funds for Syrian students in difficult circumstances.

Amer Labania, a Syrian KU student, has said that he is grateful to Kingston University for the help provided already. The University have helped him to secure an extension for his studies and find a part-time job. He said: “If they defer fees it would solve half of the problems I face and allow me to focus on my studies more.”

Universities doing all they can

The letter stated that government are doing all that they can to help Syrian students and to make them aware of the support available. Mr Labania disagreed with this statement and said: “We had to find out for ourselves for some of the additional help available, only my supervisor offered counselling.”

The hardship fund is also a necessity for many Syrian students. International students can only legally work 20 hours a week, and Mr Labania is hitting the limit but still cannot afford to look after himself, his family and still focus on his studies.

“The Ministry of Education in Syria has rejected my extension to continue my PhD study and is now intending to begin a court case against me. As far as I am concerned, my request for extended sponsorship has been rejected because of my anti-government activities in London.”

“I am part of a team here campaigning against UK universities that are not doing enough to raise awareness of Syrian students’ difficulties. We want tuition fees to be waived,” Mr Labania said.

What will Kingston do?

It is not known if Kingston University will defer tuition fees for Syrian students in the near future but Cable and Willetts’ letter will pile the pressure on universities to do more.

A University spokeswoman said: “Universities UK are continuing to engage with government officials on Syrian students. They are also working with NUS, Avaaz and CARA to maintain an accurate picture of the challenges faced by individual students. Further meetings are planned in the next fortnight.” 

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