The Balliol Students’ Scholarship for a refugee student has been awarded to Sulaiman Wihba, a Syrian refugee who has accepted a place at Balliol to study for an undergraduate degree in mathematics. As has already been reported in the press, in January 2018 he was offered an unconditional place having already passed his A-levels, achieving A*s in further maths, maths, physics and chemistry.
The scholarship, which covers full tuition fees and living costs, was established on the initiative of Balliol students, as they saw other young people having their opportunities for higher education snatched from them and facing uncertainty about their educational future due to being refugees. ‘We were committed to responding to the crisis in the way that we could, and the entire Balliol community was overwhelmingly in support of this initiative from the outset,’ says Annie Williamson, who was JCR President at the time.
The scholarship was established in 2016 by the JCR and MCR Committees in conjunction with the College. It was made possible by the generosity of Balliol’s students, 80 per cent of whom donated; the support of Balliol’s Governing Body; and extensive matching funds from alumni and friends of Balliol, including seven who ran marathons to fundraise for it. The award is therefore a result of collaboration across the whole Balliol community.
‘The members of the JCR and MCR are incredibly proud to have supported this initiative,’ say MCR President Lukas Freund and JCR President Leah Mitchell. ‘Those affected by the refugee crisis currently face significant barriers to higher education. This scholarship recognises this, seeking to combat some of these barriers by providing some support to a talented student who, despite the obstacles facing him, has worked hard to pursue his education. It provides a further small step towards making the College accessible to all capable students, regardless of background or circumstance. Now that the award has been made, we are very excited to welcome Sulaiman into Balliol’s student community!’
Looking towards enabling someone else to benefit from such a scholarship, the JCR and MCR are working (with the College) to formulate a structure through which students can raise funds for another one; the JCR and MCR Presidents hope to have this in place by the beginning of the next academic year.
Balliol’s Tutor for Undergraduate Admissions, Sebastian Shimeld, says: ‘We are delighted to have been able to make this award, which reflects Balliol’s commitment to working to draw students of exceptional potential to Balliol, whatever school, country or culture they come from. We are looking forward to welcoming Sulaiman with all the other Freshers who will be starting their studies at Balliol in October.’