Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Churches' Commission for International Students' Hardship Fund


  1.  The CCIS Hardship Fund was set up in 1990 to assist full-time international students, irrespective of their race, sex or religion, who come from developing countries (or the former Eastern Europe) and face unexpected financial problems during the final stages of their course. It is intended to enable them to complete their studies and return home. The level of funding is dependent on resources raised for this purpose. The small grants provided are typically £500, but do not exceed £800 and the same person is not funded twice. Since its inception, over 2,200 students have been helped.

  2.  Understandably, the Fund is not free to disclose detailed information about particular students without their authorisation, so this memorandum cannot give more than a general overview. The undersigned has been responsible for the routine administration of the Fund for the past three years and is thus able to comment on current experience in relation to initial enquiries and formal applications from Zimbabwean students.

  3.  A thorough statistical review would take time to compile, but it is clear from the Fund's records that African students annually count for 40-50 per cent of those who request help from the Hardship Fund and who are eventually selected to receive a small grant. Over the years, Zimbabwean students have figured quite prominently.

  4.  During the past 12 months, the undersigned has become aware of ever-increasing problems faced by Zimbabwean students, not only because of significant downward trends in currency exchange rates, which affect students from very many countries. Many Zimbabweans are privately sponsored; that is, for their university fees (at the overseas rate) and for their living costs they are dependent on their own savings or support from members of their family in Zimbabwe. Others have been promised support by a government agency or an employer. All have been able to convince those responsible for issuing visas that sufficient funding is available for their anticipated stay.

  5.  However, on many occasions recently, the support has not materialised and the completion of the study programme is seriously threatened. For some—probably a majority—the problem is basically that obtaining foreign exchange in Zimbabwe has become virtually impossible; for others, the promised funding has simply been cancelled.

  6.  Should the Foreign Affairs Committee desire clarification on any of the above or more specific details, the undersigned will endeavour to supply what is needed. It is certainly to be hoped that the process will lead to ways and means being identified for helping many Zimbabwean students facing hardship through no fault of their own.

Grants Secretary, Churches' Commission for International Students' Hardship Fund

May 2002

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