The University of Winchester has been awarded the status of ‘University of Sanctuary’ by UK charity City of Sanctuary in recognition of its initiatives to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and support them in higher education study. Winchester becomes the first University of Sanctuary in the south of England.
A ceremony hosted at the University today (Friday 7 December) saw Nicola Walters, City of Sanctuary South West Regional Coordinator, present the Award to Vice-Chancellor Professor Joy Carter CBE, DL and Assistant Vice-Chancellor Colette Fletcher. The celebration was attended by a number of students seeking sanctuary in the UK who study at Winchester and receive financial support from the University.
University of Sanctuary award recognises and celebrates organisations’ commitment to providing a welcome to asylum seekers and refugees. Winchester joins nine other UK universities which have been recognised as Universities of Sanctuary, including Warwick, Edinburgh, Sheffield and East Anglia.
“It is a huge honour for the University, its students and staff to be recognised with University of Sanctuary status for our ethos of inclusion and welcome,” said Professor Carter “Winchester is a caring, values-driven institution which warmly welcomes those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries. We value the contribution those seeking sanctuary bring to the University and more widely to the city of Winchester.”
“I am incredibly pleased to offer my warmest congratulations to the University of Winchester as I present them with the University of Sanctuary award,” said Nicola Walters. I had the opportunity to be part of the appraisal committee that made the unanimous decision to recognise the University for their work, both supporting sanctuary seekers to access higher education and also in their commitment to research and teaching on topics such as refugees, migration and social justice. It is clear that the University is seeking to offer opportunities to sanctuary seekers settled in the local area and I look forward to working with them as a University of Sanctuary in the future. This is a thoroughly well-deserved award – congratulations to the University of Winchester.”
In 2010, Winchester was one of the first two universities in the UK to offer financial support for outstanding students seeking sanctuary in the UK to undertake a degree course. Winchester’s Sanctuary Award waives tuition fees and offers a bursary of £3, 000 a year to support the costs of study. Initially for one student per year, the Award is now offered to up to five new students each year. To date, 24 students from 16 countries have received awards, with 13 graduating so far.
“There is an enormous amount of excellent work going on across the University, which is helping to transform lives for displaced people,” said Dr Terri Sandison MBE, Special Projects Manager, who oversees the University’s Sanctuary Awards programme.
“This includes hosting family days for Syrian families in partnership with the Rural Refugee Network and residentials on campus for asylum-seeking children and young people; English language tuition offered by volunteer staff for Syrian families settled in Winchester, and membership of the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) fellowship programme, which helps academics in immediate danger and those forced into exile”
Other initiatives include a Forced Migration Network of academics and support staff who are involved in research, teaching, outreach and support relating to asylum seekers and refugees. In September 2018, the University hosted Boundary Crossing: an international, interdisciplinary conference on refugees and social justice. Key speakers included academics from the Universities of Oxford, Southampton and East Anglia.