A university is criticised for offering scholarships to refugees. Its response is sublime.

Screen photo of University of Reading Twitter post
Emily Apple

On 19 June, the University of Reading announced it was launching a scheme to offer up to 14 sponsorships for refugees in the Reading area. Some people weren’t happy with the university’s plans, so the social media team issued this response:

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Supporting refugees

The sponsorship scheme has been developed in partnership with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) and Reading University Students’ Union. Gaby Couchman, deputy manager at RRSG, praised the initiative:

We work with a number of refugees in Reading who have a strong desire to engage with higher education in the UK. These are often young and highly educated people who have had their studies interrupted due to conflict and persecution in their home country. The launch of the Reading Scholarship Scheme is a powerful tool to enable refugees to help rebuild their lives in the UK.

The scheme is also supported by Prof Robert Van de Noort, who stated:

We welcome to Reading those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries and we value the contribution those seeking sanctuary can make to the University and the town in general.

The launch of these scholarships is another practical step the University has taken to welcome and integrate all people into our communities, our activities and our culture.

Winning the internet

The scheme may have been criticised, but the university’s response won the internet. Many people tweeted their support, including former students:

And generally, there was a lot of love for the university:

Although when asked about the Middle East conflict generally, the social media team did admit that was above their pay grade:

But as one Twitter user pointed out, the scheme has the potential to make a positive difference:

The bigger picture

This scheme is a great example of practical solidarity. And the Twitter response from Reading University is spot on.

It’s exactly the sort of scheme that everyone everywhere should be learning from. Instead of creating a “hostile environment” for refugees and asylum seekers, we should be nurturing and supporting people. That means offering opportunities for people to use their skills – not demonising them and fomenting hatred.

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Featured image via Screen Photo by John Ranson for The Canary

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