The Compass Project: Birkbeck welcomes asylum seekers for fully-funded study

The Compass Project, which will fund 20 asylum seekers on any undergraduate or postgraduate certificate course, is now open for applications.

Birkbeck is now accepting applications for the Compass Project Fund, a scheme offering 20 asylum seekers per year a fully-funded place on an undergraduate or postgraduate certificate course. This will enable these students to acquire a valuable University of London qualification, recognised in the UK and worldwide, as well as opening up further opportunities in work and study later on in life.

Birkbeck is committed to ensuring that individuals in the refugee and asylum seeking communities are given the right guidance to accessing higher education. In addition to the Compass Project Fund, Birkbeck has launched the Compass Project Outreach Programme to provide pre-entry support to asylum seekers, with free workshops and events throughout the year. These events and workshops are available to anyone who has sought sanctuary in the UK, irrespective of whether they are applying for the Compass Project Fund.

Asylum seekers often arrive in the UK without documentation, limiting their ability to find work or to enrol in courses of study. Unlike those classified as refugees, their immigration status means they are treated as international students, with university fees set at the higher international rate and with no access to loan support. This is often prohibitive for asylum seekers hoping to continue into higher education.

The Compass Project Fund has been established specifically for asylum seekers to overcome these barriers.  Not only is Birkbeck offering funded places to Asylum Seekers on their chosen course, but also a tailored programme of additional social and academic support to ensure a smooth transition into the British higher education system. Additionally, each successful applicant will be assigned a personal tutor to help them to navigate the academic processes at Birkbeck and provide pastoral care, as well as a dedicated student buddy.

Caroline McDonald, Head of Widening Access at Birkbeck, said: “Many of Birkbeck’s students join the College through non-traditional pathways, and we are in a unique position to offer asylum seekers and refugees a course of study that is tailored to their needs. Frequently, asylum seekers will have had their studies disrupted throughout their lives. The Compass Project provides them with an opportunity to learn new skills and gain qualifications to help them achieve their future goals.

Forced migrants do not lack ambition. They are passionate and committed and we hope Birkbeck will be the best place for them to make those first steps into university study in the UK. We’re looking forward to welcoming the first cohort of students on the scheme this Autumn.”

International legal practice Allen & Overy and The Z Foundation have partnered with Birkbeck to fund The Compass Project Outreach Programme. This new partnership with Birkbeck forms part of Allen & Overy’s ongoing commitment to provide assistance to people displaced by war and conflict, and to support access to education and employment.

Kate Cavelle, Global Head of Pro Bono and Community Investment at Allen & Overy said: “Helping individuals reach their full potential, regardless of their background, is a priority within our pro bono and community investment programme, and giving people access to education is a key element of that work. We’re delighted to be working with Birkbeck to help people who are seeking refuge in the UK overcome the barriers that would prevent them from accessing higher education and future opportunities.”

In setting up this initiative, Birkbeck consulted closely with charities which provide universities with guidance and advice on supporting students who are seeking asylum in the UK - Article 26 and STAR.

Emma Williams, Director of STAR said: "We are thrilled that Birkbeck have launched this much needed and comprehensive new project.  So many refugees and asylum seekers we know are desperately keen to continue with their studies at university and this wonderful initiative by Birkbeck will ensure they can now do so."

The final deadline to apply for the Compass Project is Sunday 13 August at 11.59pm. Before making their application, prospective students are required to attend a Preparing for study workshop where they will be provided with advice about the right course and level of study, as well as guidance on the journey of undertaking study at Birkbeck. Details of this can be found on the Compass Project Fund webpage.  

Further information