Syrian refugee achieves first-class degree from University of Gloucestershire

After fleeing conflict in his home country, Mohammed Hady Taresh was unable to work or open a bank account while his asylum application was being processed — but despite his challenges, he became the University of Gloucestershire's first postgraduate student to receive the Michael Perham Sanctuary Scholarship and is graduating with a first-class MSc in cyber security this November 2023.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Mohammed Hady Taresh graduates with a first-class degree from the University of Gloucestershire this November 2023, having completed his studies while seeking asylum in the country.

A student from the University of Gloucestershire, who completed his MSc in cyber security while waiting for his asylum application to be processed by the Home Office, is being awarded a first-class degree this November 2023. 

Mohammed Hady Taresh fled the armed conflict in his home country of Syria in 2013. Having previously spent 10 years working in ICT, digital transformation, project management and businsess development in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Cyprus, he struggled to find work during the Covid-19 pandemic — and officially applied for asylum in the UK with his wife and young daughter in 2022.

As he wasn't allowed to work or open a bank account while the Home Office processed his application, he decided to apply for a master's degree in cyber security from the University of Gloucestershire to use the waiting time constructively. 

Taresh became the university's first ever postgraduate student to be awarded the Michael Perham Sanctuary Scholarship, which includes a full tuition fee waiver and a maintenance allowance, enabling him to cover his living expenses with things like food vouchers and travel to and from campus. 

During his studies, Taresh excelled in his field, representing the university at the National Cyber Security Innovators Challenge 2023 and being appointed to the Cyber Runaway programme for budding cyber entrepreneurs. He was even interviewed by Sky News Arabia and Al Mashhad News to comment on developments within the industry. 

He and his family spent the first eight months of the course living in a hotel room at an asylum hostel in Cheltenham before being unexpectedly moved to London by the Home Office, meaning Taresh had to spend the last months of the course commuting from the capital — but despite the physical and emotional challenges he has faced, Taresh graduates this November 2023 with a first-class master's degree. 

He said: 'Achieving a first-class master's degree in cyber security is a significant milestone for me and my family and it fills me with pride. We came to the UK seeking safety from the challenges we had faced while living abroad in different countries after I left Syria in 2013, particularly during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. 

'I didn’t have the luxury of even thinking about going back to Syria, where the conflict is ongoing, without imagining the worst scenarios. 

'The uncertainty surrounding my asylum application was a constant source of stress because it impacted not only my studies but also the wellbeing of my family. The emotional and financial support I received from the university, particularly the chaplaincy, motivated me to remain determined to complete my degree and build a better future for myself and my family.'

As well as graduating, Taresh has now been granted five years' leave to remain by the Home Office, too, so he can finally work and open a bank account.

He continued: 'I'm trying to be active in the cyber industry events, conferences and expos. I am eager to contribute to the cyber security industry and give back to the community that has supported me. 

'I am so grateful to my local friends in both Gloucester and Cheltenham for their support and friendship along this journey because they have made the path easier for us.'

University of Gloucestershire chaplain, Jo Parkin, added: 'It has been a true privilege to work with Mohammed over this last year. He is extremely able in both his academic studies and their practical applications and his wonderful grade is a fitting testament to all his hard work. 

'He and his family have been through an extremely challenging and at times deeply unpleasant period in their lives, but through it all, Mohammed has been unfailingly positive, open, helpful and kind to those around him. We wish Mohammed and his family all the very best for the future.'

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