MFU For Asylum Seekers

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The Melbourne Free University runs a program specifically for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who have been released into the community while they await the outcome of the refugee visa applications, which can take years, are not only barred from working, but unable to access higher education. We think this is unfair and we want to do something about it. We also think the MFU community has something to offer that is both valuable and easy to pull off if we continue to be supported by volunteers who teach classes and help organise the program.

At the moment, there aren’t many resources for asylum seekers with more than basic English language skills. In 2013, we were approached by asylum seekers who have good language skills and, often, a tertiary level education, and they want a forum where they can develop their academic English competence in the hope that they’ll be able to enrol in university once their refugee applications are processed. We thought that a good way for the MFU to do this would be to marry interesting subject matter with the development of ESL and academic language and writing skills. We are not running English or ESL classes – this program is something for people with moderate to advanced English language skills.

We are running courses that parallel the broad, first-year courses that are available in Australian universities, focusing on subjects like politics, history, sociology, literature, media, maths, philosophy etc. As with any other university course, there are assessments that students can compete if they want. We see this as an important part of the language development and academic skills component of this program, and see it as formative, rather than summative.


Anyone is welcome to attend these courses – you don’t have to be an asylum seeker to attend, and you don’t have to come to every session. Just come when you’re able, and when the topic interests you!


There is no enrolment, no registration, and we do not offer certification of courses. Anyone can attend, and you don’t have to commit to attend every session – you can just come to as many as interest you and suit your other time commitments. Although the sessions are part of a single course and build on each other, they are also stand-alone in that you won’t need to go to the whole course to make sense of each session. You are welcome to join the courses at any point.


Classes are held every Wednesday from 6-7.15pm at the Victorian Trades Hall, corner of Lygon St and Victoria St, Carlton. Enter via the Victoria St entrance and follow the signs.

6-7.15pm – Language skills class with special guest lecture
7.15-8pm – Tea, coffee and snacks


By tram: Stop #7 on Swanston Street at Victoria St
The 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 64, 67 and 72 stop here. Walk up Victoria St to Trades Hall.

By bus: Trades Hall/Lygon Street stop
The 200, 201, 202, 203, 205, 207 and 302 stop here. This is directly outside the building.


The MFU operates in the spirit of free, open education, discussion, and engagement with ideas. It is not about the simple transfer of knowledge, and it is free and open to all to attend. We want to apply these principles to the courses for asylum seekers as well. We’re not about pedagogical hierarchy and we’re not interested in lecturing to people, especially as the asylum seekers who will (hopefully) come have a great wealth of knowledge and experience already.


Happening Now:
History of Ideas

Previous Courses:
Global Politics
Australian History and Society


This project, like all aspects of the MFU, runs on volunteer-power. If you would like to get involved, please email us at with a bit about yourself, and how you think you could contribute to the project. Some roles that always need filling are:
  • Language skills teachers
  • Teachers to join each course’s teaching team (upcoming courses include economics and creative writing workshops)
  • People to sit in on classes, participate and help out as necessary
  • People to welcome students when they arrive set up the refreshments for the tea break
  • People to help convene the MFU for asylum seekers
We always welcome new ideas on things we can do, so if you’ve got something in mind, please propose it to us!


If you work with asylum seekers and would like to refer your clients to us, please send us their contact details (name, email address, and phone number if possible) and we will add them to our mailing list.

If you are referring people to us, let us know and we can send any relevant info or updates to you.

Please remember that these courses are for students with at least moderate English skills, and that we are not teaching ESL classes.

Students can also email us directly to join the mailing list about the course, or they can just come to a session and introduce themselves to us then.

If you have any questions about what is on offer and you can’t find the info on this website, please email us at melbournefreeunivesity [at] gmail [dot] com.