Sanctuary Seekers’ Unit

Information for organisations and volunteers

RefugEAP logoWhat is the RefugEAP Programme?

RefugEAP is a structured online programme of free non-formal English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes and independent learning resources, specifically for refugee-background students. It is for students who need to improve their academic English skills to help them access a degree programme at university, but perhaps have not been able to access a formal pre-sessional English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programme yet. RefugEAP has been developed to meet this need, providing students with an opportunity to continue to develop their academic English skills in a supportive way while they are waiting for more formal opportunities to become available.

The course is for people from refugee backgrounds with an IELTS level of 5.5-6.5 and who wish to study at university. It has been developed into two distinct 10-week modules.

Module 1

Module 1 is a structured 10 week block of live Zoom classes and independent learning activities. Students attend 3 hours of evening classes per week (2 x 90 minutes), and complete 3-6 hours of structured independent learning activities per week too (as a compulsory part of the course rather than an add-on). They complete two graded assessments during Module 1 of the course – an essay and an individual presentation. They also develop a Personal Development Plan in conjunction with their tutor, and are supported to set goals, work towards them and reflect weekly on their progress.

Module 2

Module 2 is an optional further 10 weeks of support for students who have successfully completed Module 1. It includes one-to-one support from a tutor to continue to work towards and develop their Personal Development Plan goals, as well as optional needs-based language and skills workshops and the opportunity to prepare for an IELTS exam. For students who are ready to take an IELTS exam, there is an opportunity for this to be funded by our partner charity RefuAid.

See more detailed information about what the programme entails for students

Who runs and supports this programme?

The RefugEAP Programme has been developed by staff at the University of Leicester’s Sanctuary Seekers’ Unit and the University of Leeds Language Centre. It is being kindly supported by dedicated volunteer tutors and a number of partner organisations, including Password Testing (who are providing assessments), Screen Share (who are providing digital devices for students who need them), RefuAid (who are providing wrap-around support and referrals) and Oxford University Press (who have provided online course books).

How is the RefugEAP Programme different from other courses?

It takes a different approach from typical formal pre-sessional academic English programmes because:

  • It is more flexible, as RefugEAP students study part time, which may help them balance their studies more effectively with other priorities in their lives
  • It is specifically designed to remove barriers to access and inclusion which refugee-background students often face, and students will have access to specialist wrap-around support from partner organisation RefuAid before, during and after the course
  • All tutors are volunteers and will receive training (including trauma training) to help to sensitise them to work more effectively with students from refugee backgrounds
  • There is an enhanced emphasis on supporting students to become independent learners, and students receive a good deal of guidance and support in how to use effective learning strategies (such as planning and goal setting)
  • The ethos behind RefugEAP is that of trauma-informed social justice education, with an emphasis on inclusivity, student choice and agency, critical thinking, social responsibility and personal reflection. This is reflected in the processes and the content of the course, which will be largely based around examining the UN Sustainable Development Goals (we adapted the Develop EAP: A Sustainable Academic English Skills Course materials developed by Averil Bolster and Peter Levrai for this purpose)

Who is it for?

The RefugEAP is for refugee-background students who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • a background of forced migration
  • are based in the UK
  • intend to study at a UK university at either undergraduate or postgraduate level (and priority will go to those who already have an offer of a place but cannot access academic English classes to help them reach the required level)
  • have an English language level of IELTS 5.5 or above
  • are able to commit to 3 hours per week of synchronous online evening sessions, plus 3-6 hours of independent study

Level of student commitment required

Although RefugEAP is a part-time programme, it requires a substantial level of commitment and motivation for students to complete the course. This is largely due to the fact that 50% of the course content and learning takes place via the compulsory independent study element of the course; if students do not complete these tasks, it will have a knock-on effect on their ability to benefit from the live classes and complete the course assessments. Therefore, we are taking pains to make this requirement of the programme explicit to students from the outset, and have reiterated this in a checklist included in the RefugEAP Programme web page for students.

How can individuals and organisations support the RefugEAP Programme?

There are various ways in which individuals and organisations can get involved in the RefugEAP Programme, including: 

  • becoming a volunteer tutor on the programme - please see this role description (which includes application details)
  • becoming an associate organisation - please complete this sign-up form if you wish to:
    • be directly informed of programme start dates, application windows, and other key updates
    • refer eligible students onto the programme
    • consider referrals for eligible RefuEAP Programme students into your provision (e.g. pre-sessionals, IELTS, degree programmes, progression support, etc)
  • becoming an official partner organisation - please contact us via if you or your organisation wishes to contribute time/funds/resources to support the running of the scheme
  • joining the RefugEAP Network, which is designed to complement the RefugEAP Programme, bringing together practitioners and researchers from across the HE sector to network, share good practice and build a strong evidence base to facilitate the development of more EAP opportunities for refugee-background students. Find out more on the RefugEAP network web page, and join by subscribing to the RefugEAP Network JISCmail discussion list.

How can I get in touch or find out more?

Listen to a British Council Teaching English podcast featuring the RefugEAP Programme

I can tell for 100% that I’m truly satisfied with the quality and the flow of the programme. It is designed with love, and I received so much support both from academic side and psychological side.

Iuliia Kniupa - RefugEAP Programme student from Ukraine

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