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UK MOOC to ‘signpost’ path to HE for refugees

Cambridge English Language Assessment has teamed up with organisations working with refugees across the UK to create a MOOC to help refugees navigate the path to higher education.

Cambridge English Language Assessment/FutureLearn Aim Higher MOOC for refugeesThe Aim Higher FutureLearn course will be led by Ahmad Al-Rashid, a Syrian refugee, campaigner and master's student. Photo: Cambridge English Language Assessment/FutureLearn.

"Students will be able to interact with expert moderators, but also others that are facing similar challenges"

Designed with input from organisations including Refugee Council, German-based online provider Kiron Open Higher Education, the British Council and UCAS, Aim Higher will ‘signpost’ the journey to university for refugees and asylum seekers, from deciding where to study right up to the support services on offer once they arrive.

“There’s a lot of information available but there’s a real need for signposting”

“There’s a lot of information available, there are lots of organisations that are supporting [refugees], but it’s quite difficult to know who all of those are and there’s a real need for signposting,” Chloe Shaw, partnership strategy manager at Cambridge English, told The PIE News.

The course, delivered through FutureLearn, will take place over three weeks and tackle three main areas. In the first week, students will learn the basics of the admissions process including the timeline for applying, along with the types of courses and higher education institutions on offer.

In the second week, students will receive tips on making their university application, such as how to craft a personal statement and the level of English skills they will need.

The final week of study will equip them with information they might need post-admission, on topics such as funding, study skills and how to get involved in sports and other activities at university.

During each stage of the course, students will be directed to free resources from Cambridge English and other organisations, ranging from English language study materials to information on scholarships that are available.

The course is led by Ahmad al-Rashid, a Syrian refugee and campaigner who is currently undertaking an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development at the University of London’s SOAS.

FutureLearn’s social learning model will aid engagement with the students as well, added Shaw.

“The other reason for making it a MOOC [other than making it free and widely available] is that you have that social element, which we think will be quite a large part of the course for the participants – that they’ll be able to interact with expert moderators, but also with others that are going through the same experience and are facing similar challenges,” she said.

The MOOC, which will take place during May, has already had around 200 signups. Cambridge English is aiming to attract 250 students for the first run of the course, and a further 750 in a second run in November.

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