New Brunswick

STU launches free tuition program for students from conflict zones

A Fredericton university says it wants to help students whose academic pursuits have been disrupted by conflict integrate into the New Brunswick workforce.

Program will admit up to 10 students with free accommodations and wraparound supports for two years

Ryan Sullivan, St. Thomas University's associate vice president of enrolment, said the university wants to help bridge the gap for students whose academic pursuits have been disrupted by conflict. (St. Thomas University)

Officials at St. Thomas University say they have launched a new program to give up to 10 students from international conflict zones free tuition and accommodations for up to two years.

The lives of many people from around the world have been "completely disrupted," said Ryan Sullivan, associate vice-president of enrolment, and disruption of academic pursuits can be "part of the trauma."

"We thought that we could assist and help bridge that gap," he said.

The program is for bachelor of arts students from countries undergoing conflict, who are eligible for federal programs such as emergency travel or settlement.

Applicants must have no previous university degree, have arrived in Canada within the previous year and have temporary resident status or permanent resident status as a refugee. 

It's a way for STU to do its part, said Sullivan, to help students get back on "the right path," and into a better position to integrate into Canadian society and the New Brunswick workforce.

The war in Ukraine has certainly been top of mind lately, he said, but something like this has been considered for a while, as refugees have arrived from Afghanistan and Syria and "many other countries."

The UN reports that at the end of 2021, 89.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events that have seriously disturbed public order. Sixty-nine per cent originated from five countries — Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

STU worked closely with organizations and individuals who work directly with refugees, said Sullivan.

It's prepared to accept students who have already started undergraduate studies or nearly completed secondary school.

University staff will work with the applicants "to evaluate their potential for academic success and make arrangements to support them," said Sullivan.

That support could be with English proficiency or it could be with counselling, accessibility services or "success coaching."

The program is limited to 10 students because of the level of support to be offered, he said.

"It was felt that we could step up and help this number and do it well."

Sullivan is "very optimistic," the program will attract interest and "a good class."

STU has already received a couple of inquiries, he said. 

He expects the students who enrol through the new program will have a lot to offer the campus community.

"We have international students who join us every year from over 35 countries. And we see the impact that they have on our campus."

"It's immense."

They bring different perspectives and rich discussion to classes, said Sullivan.

It can be "a real eye opener" to students from New Brunswick and elsewhere in Canada.

The requirement that applicants be already in Canada was set because it can take a while for people to get permission to enter the country, he explained.

The university plans to work with students up until classes start in September, but will accept new admissions to the program "on a rolling basis."

There's another student intake point in January, if that works better for individual students, Sullivan said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton