Debate rages over Portsmouth student’s plea to university to offer free places to Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees
  • Petition calls on university to offer 20 scholarships to Syrian refugees
  • Those against the plea claim it would be a ‘gross betrayal’ to Portsmouth students
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A DEBATE is raging over whether or not the University of Portsmouth should offer free scholarships to refugees from war-torn Syria.

Hundreds of students in the city are clashing over two separate campaigns.

We need everyone to play their part in helping people who have fled war and persecution to find safety and rebuild their shattered lives.

Yarin Hirani, University of Portsmouth student

One is calling on the university to provide 20 free places for Syrian refugees, while the other is urging it to reject the bid.

Luke Freeman, 21, is a third-year politics student at Portsmouth and is opposed to the scholarship plea.

He said: ‘It’s a very emotive subject and it’s a nice idea. But simply being a nice idea doesn’t necessarily make it the right one.’

Almost 700 people have so far backed his campaign – something that Luke said he was ‘shocked’ by.

Placing an ‘economic argument’ against the plans, Luke said the scheme would bring ‘no real benefit’ to the university, the city or the students.

He felt the idea was unfair and not representative of the whole student community.

He added: ‘Offering this money to Syrian refugees, giving them a free ride on the back of the money we are paying the University of Portsmouth, is a gross betrayal of the students’ trust. We are paying for our own education, not for other people’s.’

The second campaign, set up by Yarin Hirani, is backed by almost 600 people.

Yarin says the city needs to ‘play its part’ in helping those fleeing the war-torn nation.

He called upon the university to become a ‘leading example of concrete humanitarian action’, arguing at least 26 others have already pledged their support to similar schemes.

‘The current refugee crisis is the largest humanitarian disaster facing Europe in generations,’ Yarin said.

‘We need everyone to play their part in helping people who have fled war and persecution to find safety and rebuild their shattered lives.

‘Many refugees have been forced to abandon their education.

‘They arrive in the UK ready to resume their studies, but without the financial means to do it.’

He added ‘huge potential’ was being wasted as people were being ‘blocked from education’ which could help to ultimately rebuild Syria.

A university official said Portsmouth already offered a wide range of bursaries.

However, she explained that there were no scholarships specifically for refugees or asylum-seekers.

But the spokeswoman added: ‘The university does not distinguish between applications from refugees and British students, meaning they have the same access to hardship support in order to pursue their studies.’