The British artist Tracey Emin is funding a four-year scholarship for a refugee student at Bard College Berlin. She is one of five donors, including the philanthropist Nina Baroness von Maltzahn and three anonymous benefactors, who are helping undergraduates complete a four-year course at the liberal arts university. Three of the five scholarships are specifically intended for students who have fled from Syria.
Each donor has given €80,000, which has been matched by a contribution from Bard. Emin's Belgian dealer, Xavier Hufkens, is sharing the former YBA's donation. The total cost of each scholarship is €120,000, which covers full tuition fees, housing costs, monthly transport within Berlin, as well as books and other study materials.
Emin says: “I want to help and try to make things better, but in a way in which I know I can. If just one student makes it through that course and does something great with their life, for me it’s all been worth it. I love being an artist, I love my work and when I see the atrocities taking place in this world I realise how lucky I am.”
The scholarships are part of the Program for International Education and Social Change, which enables students from countries that are facing severe economic and political crisis to enroll in the university. Bard, which has a college in New York as well as Berlin, has often welcomed refugees–something its president, Leon Botstein, referred to after the announcement of Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries including Syria.
“Bard has a long and proud history as a haven for refugees, first in the 1930s and again after the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956,” Botstein wrote in a statement sent to the college community. “The recent directives from President Trump demand careful scrutiny with respect to their implications. However, I believe that Bard must sustain its commitment to the principle of non-discrimination by reason of race, religion, or national identity.”
The programme began last summer when the first four students, all from Syria, enrolled. “[Their] intellectual commitment and artistic achievements have heightened political awareness at a college that has its foundation in connecting education with the values of a free, open and pluralistic society,” says Catherine Toal, the Dean of Bard College Berlin.
Future applicants must be strong academically, able to speak English and in serious need of financial support. The admissions department says it will help students with missing documentation.