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Study support for refugees

Issue 18 | November 2006

Report: Penny Rankin
Photography: Paul Philipson

Thankful for support: Saranya Rhadhakrishnan is studying radiography through the Refugee Access Bursary program.

Monash University's Refugee Access Bursary program is giving some of the community's most disadvantaged people the opportunity to gain a university education.

In the year 2000, 11-year-old Saranya Radhakrishnan and her family fled Jaffna, Sri Lanka, leaving behind civil unrest.

Like many asylum seekers, the family arrived in Australia ready to embrace the opportunities their new country offered.

Although the family is still waiting for news of its permanent visa application, opportunities have already opened up for Saranya.

Saranya, now 17, holds a Bridging Visa (E), which allowed her to access studies at Monash through the university's Refugee Access Bursary program.

The first bursaries were offered through the program this year following strong support from the university's donor community, particularly alumni.

Saranya was offered one of the bursaries, which entitled her to one year's tuition fees to study the course of her choice -- a Bachelor of Radiography and Medical Imaging.

To get there, she not only had to apply for the bursary and the course, she also needed high marks in her VCE -- a goal she exceeded, achieving an ENTER of 99.1.

Selection for the bursary is based on merit and equity, the former assessing academic history and the latter assessing factors such as financial hardship and personal circumstances.

The Refugee Access Bursary program is open to holders of a Temporary Protection Visa or a Bridging Visa (E) who are either international students studying VCE in Victoria, international direct applicants to one of Monash's Australian campuses or currently enrolled Monash students. The university will, from 2007, offer up to five bursaries each year.

Without the bursary, students who meet these criteria are required to pay standard international student tuition fees -- in Saranya's case, an average of $28,000 a year.

Saranya says she couldn't be more appreciative of having been awarded the bursary.

"I'm deeply grateful to Monash University for not only giving me the opportunity to study the course I wanted to do but also providing me with the chance to enjoy student life at Monash without stressing over the burden of paying fees," she says. "I've always wanted to go to Monash, and I can never say enough thanks for providing me with this chance."

She says that without the bursary her family would have found it hard to give her a university education. "It would have been very, very difficult. The bursary took a lot of weight off my parents' shoulders."

Saranya is excited about studying radiography and hopes to find work in a hospital as an ultrasound specialist.

Her bursary covered only this year's study -- she will need to reapply to receive the bursary in 2007 and beyond. The bursary program has been made possible through donations to the university by alumni and others.

Saranya understands the need to give to educational institutions and says she would one day also like to contribute to Monash's bursary program.

"Everyone wants a better life. They come to uni to get an education and to get a good job," she says. "And just giving people like me the opportunity to lead a better life and contribute to the community is an important reason to give."

Monash University welcomes donations to its Refugee Access Bursary to assist students like Saranya. Donations can be made online by visitng the Giving to Monash website, sent via fax on +61 3 9905 2944, or posted to:

Monash University
Annual Giving Program
University Development and Alumni
Reply Paid 63505
Monash University
Clayton, Victoria 3800

For more information, telephone +61 3 9905 4037.

Anyone interested in applying for a Refugee Access Bursary may visit the Monash Scholarships website for information.