First Humanitarian Scholarship students welcomed to our University

Written by: Joe Stafford

The University of Manchester has held an event to welcome the first recipients of its newly-created Humanitarian Scholarships for students fleeing conflict and persecution.

In response to the war in Ukraine, the University launched a new scheme earlier this year for international applicants who have been displaced because of armed conflict or are at risk of persecution or violence due to their race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion. 

The scholarships are intended for students who could not afford to study in Manchester without one, and are expected to cost the University around £5m to operate over three years. 

16 students from three countries - including eight from Ukraine – have received a scholarship this academic year, which covers their fees as well as living expenses and visa costs. One of them is Serhii, a Computer Science student from Mariupol who fled west with his mother after his home and their family business were destroyed during the Russian invasion. 

“My parents have lost everything they had, and I feel a moral obligation to support them and help them to rebuild,” said Serhii. “Therefore, higher education for me is not only about getting to work in the field I like - it is also the only chance I have to save my family. The Humanitarian Scholarship will help me to study Computer Science and fulfil my dreams.”

“The University of Manchester is one of the best higher education institutions in the world. Although I have only been studying here for a month, I am already very impressed with the high quality of facilities available to students and with the standard of teaching. It is truly an honour to study here.”

Another recipient is Sally Fahed, a Humanitarianism and Conflict Response student from Syria - her humanitarian work and involvement in protests saw her arrested and constantly harassed by the security services in her home country, and she had to move away from her besieged family home in Homs to attend her studies. 

It is still hard to believe that I made it to The University of Manchester - I dreamed of this my whole adult life, and here I am. I believe this opportunity will change my life forever. 

Sally Fahed

“My lifelong career objectives are to enhance self-sufficiency and to ensure dignified access to basic services among vulnerable communities - despite how aspirant these goals might seem, I truly believe that passion, hard work, and the opportunity to study at Manchester will assist me to go steps further towards this goal,” Sally added.

Another recipient is Alona Deriabina, a Clinical and Health Psychology student who fled to Poland after the Russian invasion forced her to leave her hometown near Kyiv. “Despite becoming a refugee, I remain desperate to continue my education no matter the circumstances,” said Alona. “My dream is to gain deep knowledge and skills in the field of clinical and health psychology, so I can promote mental health in Ukraine and abroad, particularly for Ukrainian refugees who are spread now all over the world.”

Electrical Engineering student Yefym Lunev is from Kharkiv in Ukraine, and he had to flee with his family as the city was being destroyed by Russian bombs. “Russia has been bombarding my city, especially residential areas, day and night since the war began,” he said. “More than 1100 high rise residential buildings, 60 schools, dozens of nurseries, hospitals, libraries and even our famous opera house and fine arts museum are in ruins. Several of my university buildings were destroyed by bombs, and some students and faculty members are reported to have been killed.”

It is a pleasure to welcome our first group of scholarship recipients to Manchester. Nobody’s potential, or what they can offer to the world, should be limited by war or persecution - this is our chance to help. The stories of the recipients illustrate the real difference this programme will make for these students, their families and their communities.

Professor Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility

“I want to graduate with high marks and gain a deep knowledge of engineering. I am really interested in renewable energy and global warming problems, and want to focus on mastering my knowledge in this sphere – I am sure the university will help me to achieve this,” Yefym added.

Syrian Medical Microbiology student Mahmoud Komy is another recipient - he is now able to study for a Master's Degree after his family were twice displaced during the ongoing civil war, and he and his father were both imprisoned for belonging to a minority group associated with the opposition. He has previously worked for Syrian Arab Red Crescent as a humanitarian field doctor, helping to treat his fellow countrymen wounded in the conflict.

“Epidemiology and microbiology affects everyone around the world, which was evident during the COVID­-19 pandemic when microbiologists were on the front line fighting the virus and making crucial decisions – however, the Syrian health system allocates little interest to epidemiology and microbiological studies,” said Mahmoud. “After more than ten years of a brutal war, securing a future inside Syria became a dream that could never come true - now, the only solution is to look for opportunities abroad. Therefore, I need to take this path to fulfil the needs of my country.”

“It means a lot for me to be here, and I will do my best to give back to this city - I will always be grateful.”

I liked Manchester from the moment I arrived. This city is unique, and the university looks so cool – especially the amazing engineering building!

Yefym Lunev

The University would like to thank Gian Fulgoni for his financial contribution to the scheme. It is one of many programs supporting the University’s social responsibility agenda - these include our Equity and Merit Scholarships for students from sub-Saharan Africa, and our Undergraduate Access Scholarships for UK applicants who have been in care or estranged from their parents. 

For more information, visit www.manchester.ac.uk/study/international/finance-and-scholarships/funding/.

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