Free English tuition scheme for refugees

Refugees living in Edinburgh have spoken warmly of a scheme that has offered free English classes to displaced people this summer.


International students

Participants in the University of Edinburgh initiative have included people who have fled war or political unrest in Syria, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong.

Also taking part in the ten-week programme have been people seeking refuge from Ukraine, who are taking part in the Scottish Government’s Super Sponsor scheme.

This initiative, launched in June, has helped meet the demand for accessible English language courses across the city by offering 90 places per day to non-native speakers.

Staff from the University’s Centre for Open Learning have led the flexible drop-in sessions in Holyrood campus, which run until the end of August. Registration is now open for classes starting in September.

Building confidence

Addy, who fled from Syria, says the classes have been invaluable:

My teacher has an amazing way of breaking things down. It helps me understand and he always keeps lessons light and fun. He’s great at building confidence through a variety of activities that improve my English. I really appreciate this.

Social benefits

Anna, who came to Edinburgh from Ukraine, says the classes offer much more than basic language skills:

We must learn English to survive here. I am so happy to learn when everything else has been taken away. Because of the war, we really have lost so much already.  These classes helps us keep going and allows us to meet new people.

University of Sanctuary

The University of Edinburgh has a strong track record of supporting those in need, working with local government and the third sector to help unrepresented groups access higher education.

The University was the first institution in Scotland to be accredited as a University of Sanctuary. Earlier this year, the University launched its Sanctuary Scholarship scheme for students living in war-torn regions across the world.

The scheme offers students the opportunity to study in Edinburgh, take part in short visits to Scotland or study in their home country.

The University also works with other groups – including Universities of Sanctuary, Scholars At Risk and the Council for At Risk Academics – to provide support to those seeking sanctuary.

Rewarding work

Refugees are just people trying to rebuild their lives. They have hopes, skills, and display incredible resilience and agency. Education is a human right and helping them is our duty. I can see how much it means to people and I can see it on their faces when I teach. Doing this work is an honour.

Amelia HarkerTeaching Fellow and English Language for Widening Participation Coordinator , University of Edinburgh

More information

For more information or to get involved, please send an email to the address below:

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