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  • Libby Ancrum (PPE, 1978) and David Skinner matchfunded £6,112

The Somerville Refugee Scholarship

A project by: Somerville College


WE RAISED £12,224

from 44 donors

This project received pledges on Sun 05 Apr 2020
A new Somerville Scholarship supporting an incoming Refugee student

The Aims of the Refugee Scholarship

At Somerville, we are working with the University to offer fully-funded scholarships to young people who have been forced to migrate from their home countries, and who have the potential to make the most of an Oxford education.

We believe that Somerville, with its global outlook and history of "including the excluded", would be a welcoming space for those who have faced the pain of forced migration.

We are committed to ensuring that the scholarships will alleviate the burden of financial worry for those in need. Worldwide, only about 3% of refugees enter higher education and funding is a major barrier.

For this to become a reality, we are seeking support to assist us in supporting the student’s living costs, and to help Somerville continue in its mission of supporting students from all backgrounds. 

The University suggests that it can cost over £15,000 to live in Oxford as a student for 12 months, so we aim to raise £46,000, enough to support three years of the scholarship. This will cover accommodation and food, as well as some travel, study and social activities. We are delighted to have already received support from some alumni and friends of the College towards the new scholarship for the next academic year. With this crowdfunding appeal, we hope to put the scholarship onto more secure footing for future years. 

We would like to thank our generous Matching Fund Donors, Libby Ancrum (PPE, 1978) and David Skinner for their support of this project. Libby and David are currently working on the Humanitarian response to the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Somerville's Ethos 

Somerville was founded to include the excluded. It was created for women when universities refused them entry and for people of diverse beliefs. We are proud that this ethos remains strong. The college is now Co-Ed, with an international student body from different backgrounds. 

Many of our students have gone on to change the world. Over the years, Somerville has been at the forefront of pioneering research and life-changing teaching. We are proud to have educated great scientists, novelists and politicians alike. Somerville also has a history of sheltering academics and students fleeing persecution. In the 1930s, Somerville was one of several Oxford colleges to offer refuge to academics escaping Nazi Germany. One such academic was Dr Lotte Labowsky, a classicist of Jewish German origin. She became close friends with Somerville Classics tutor, Mildred Hartley, and was protected by the Principal Helen Darbishire. Labowsky became a Fellow and her association with Somerville lasted until her death in 1991. Labowsky was one of many academics who sought and found refuge in academia in Oxford and across Britain. The support offered by institutions and individuals was lifesaving. To find out more about Labowsky's life and connection to Somerville, please take a read of our 2017 College Magazine our 2017 College Magazine.

Dr Lotte Labowsky, 1930s

Somerville's support over the decades- Our history of supporting refugee/ marginalised Scholars and students, including:

In the 1930s-40, there was ongoing assistance of Jewish refugee academics, including:

Dr K. Bosse, Egyptologist

Dr Lotte Labowsky, Classicist

Dr Herzog Hauser, Classicist

Dr Elise Baumgartel, Egyptologist

In 1956, there was a student supported Hungarian Student Scholarship Fund, which was set-up by Oxford undergraduates with the support of Senior Members of the University; sponsors included Janet Vaughan and the committee included Philippa Foot (the Somerville Senior Treasurer) and Somervillian students. The Oxford fund reflected actions across the country to assist Hungarian refugee students and place them in British universities.

In 1957, JACARI – Joint Action Committee Against Racial Intolerance – Oxford aimed to raise £2000 in the University and town and founded a scholarship for a non-white student from the Union of South Africa. Somerville’s Principal, Janet Vaughan, was a trustee.

In 1966, there was an Appeal for Funds for students from Czechoslovakia – to raise money to cover student maintenance, colleges to cover fees.

In 1969, a South African student was funded by the JCR.

In the 1970s, The Sheila Cassidy Scholarship Fund was created. A number of colleges had founded refugee scholarship funds at this time and Somerville’s JCR established its own, named after alumna Dr Sheila Cassidy. The purpose of this fund was to assist a Chilean refugee scholar. It funded an undergraduate at Somerville and helped secure the release of a political prisoner in Chile in 1979.

Other support

We are delighted that our students of the JCR and MCR are undertaking their own fundraising activities to support this new Scholarship, and we look forward to updating you on their progress over the coming months.

Help us succeed!

We hope you will support us with a gift, but you can also support us by spreading the word and sharing this project with anyone who will think it is a great idea. Please donate by clicking the ‘donate’ button, where you can make a gift by credit/debit card. If you would like to make a tax efficient gift from the USA, please visit the Americans For Oxford website (https://www.oxfordna.org/donate) and select Somerville College. There will be an option to add a reference, which should be 'Refugee Scholarship', we can then allocate it towards this campaign appropriately. 

Social media

To read more about Somerville, visit us on our website. We also have a College Facebook page and Twitter page, which updates regularly.