Free English classes for refugees from the war in Ukraine will begin next week (week commencing 6 Feb), provided by the University of Bath.

Ten weeks of online lessons will be available to up to 75 people in three classes at beginner and intermediate level, in association with Somerset Supports Ukraine. Teachers from the University’s Skills Centre will deliver the classes, and if successful the trial may be extended.

The University decided to offer the classes after hearing of a need for English lessons from Somerset Supports Ukraine trustees. After surveying some of the Ukrainians that the group works with, the University designed a short curriculum to help best meet their needs.

There are four classes each week, three at beginner level and one intermediate level class.

David Busby, Head of Digital and Academic Skills, said: “We want to focus on giving the attendees a sense of community and some additional confidence with communication. Hopefully this will help them to express themselves and build relationships with other people in the community and in the workplace”

“I hope this will be the first step and that we can offer more support in the future, for example some face-to-face tuition. I think it’s an important thing to do for our Ukrainian friends.”

The beginners’ classes will be structured, with a focus on functional language for day-to-day communication, while the intermediate class is more discussion-based and led by what the students want to learn about.

Clare Ronay, a trustee at Somerset Supports Ukraine, said: “Somerset Supports Ukraine is delighted to be working with the University of Bath to offer English lessons. Speaking the language helps people find work and accommodation and become part of the community, but research showed that over three quarters of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Somerset speak little or no English.

“These lessons will help give attendees confidence in applying for work and becoming more independent. This initiative will make a real difference to the lives of Ukrainian refugees.”

Rohan Surana, Director of Operations at the University’s School of Management, initially brought the idea to the University. He added: “I’m really pleased that the University has been able to put on these lessons. Everyone has been helpful and enthusiastic about making it happen.

“I think we’re all keen to offer support to a group of people who have been forced to leave their country and lives behind due to a terrible war.”

To find out more about how the University is working to help refugees and asylum seekers check out the Sanctuary at Bath webpage.