Life-changing scholarship for refugee student

21 June 2023
Refugee Week (18-24 June)
After leaving Afghanistan in 2019, Mohammad Reha is now living in Auburn and studying at Sydney, supported by a new scholarship for students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Mohammad Reha sitting on a bench outside the Quadrangle

Mohammad Reha is continuing his education through a MySydney scholarship. Photo by Louise Cooper

Less than four years ago Mohammad Reha was one of the millions of people globally displaced from their own country. As a member of the Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan, Mohammad was persecuted for his beliefs. 

“I couldn’t be safe as there is no freedom of belief and speech there. I was threatened and insulted by extremists many times,” Mohammad said.

Now the Hazara refugee has made a home in Western Sydney and is studying at the University of Sydney under a scholarship that allows him to pursue his dream of higher education in a safe environment.

“The scholarship means a lot to me because I come from a background with many disadvantages and have to support my 10 siblings and parents. It means I have less financial stress and can focus more on my studies,” he said.

“For students like me, who have to support their families, it would be impossible to continue their education. With the help of this financial aid, it has made the education possible for me.”

Diversifying our student community

The mature age student is one of the first cohort of students to benefit from the new MySydney entry and scholarship scheme, which provides eligible domestic students with $8500 per annum for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

Introduced last year, the scholarship is a key plank of the University’s strategy to expand educational opportunities for underrepresented students.

Enrolments for Semester 1 this year show the new scheme has had a significant impact on the diversity of the University’s domestic student cohort. Semester 1 2023 enrolments of students from low socio-economic areas have grown by a third over Semester 1 2022.

I’m delighted that we have not only increased the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds studying here year on year, we’re seeing higher than average rates of retention for our MySydney students.
Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott AO

Mohammad is studying a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies, majoring in philosophy and literature.  “Although it was a hard decision to go to uni at an older age, I'm sure it will be worthwhile to fulfil my potential and build my future life," he said.

The University welcomed nearly 700 students this semester through the MySydney scheme, a commitment of the University’s new 10-year strategy announced last year. The scheme is designed to give more students the opportunity to study at Sydney by offering financial and other support to domestic students from low socio-economic areas. 

Supporting students to succeed

Recognising that many students need more than financial assistance to succeed, the University offers MySydney students a range of non-financial supports including mentoring and advice to help them with enrolment, study skills and academic communication.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mark Scott said the mark of success for the University was not just attracting students from different backgrounds, but setting them up for success.

“As we approach the end of our first semester, I’m delighted that we have not only increased the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds studying here year on year, we’re seeing higher than average rates of retention for our MySydney students.

“This is a wonderful testament to the diligence and enthusiasm of talented students from many different backgrounds to further their education and having the right support available to them so they feel a sense of belonging and connection at Sydney,” said Professor Scott.

Since beginning his degree in March this year, Mohammad has been receiving support from the University’s Learning Hub, which helps students to develop their academic communication, research and study skills.

“I’ve referred to the Learning Hub many times and it’s been really useful in terms of going through what is expected in assignments, and helping me to understand questions or get the meaning of specific terminology,” said Mohammad.

In his first semester Mohammad has also made new friends through joining three student societies and hopes to get involved in more. After finishing his degree, Mohammad wants to make a contribution to the community.

“I hope one day to use my education to make a contribution to society and this beautiful country that is my second home,” said Mohammad.

Refugee Week (18 to 24 June) is coordinated by the Refugee Council of Australia and includes the United Nations World Refugee Day (20 June).  According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, at the end of 2022, 108.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order.

Killara Ulm

Media & Public Relations Adviser (Central)

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