What is a ‘University of Sanctuary’?
The idea of ‘Universities of Sanctuary’ was developed from the ‘City of Sanctuary’ movement. In 2015 there were nearly 80 Cities of Sanctuary initiatives in towns, cities, villages, counties and boroughs across the UK, with the purpose of welcoming people seeking sanctuary from violence and persecution at a local level.
This includes promoting understanding, recognition and celebrating the ways in which people seeking sanctuary enrich society, as well as enabling opportunities for building closer relationships between local communities and new arrivals.
Coventry is established as a City of Sanctuary, helping many organisations such as schools, arts centres, local business and health services to become more welcoming to asylum seekers and refugees.
Higher Education Institutions in the UK have a proud tradition of providing sanctuary for young people and academics, with a growing number of universities now being recognised as Universities of Sanctuary.
Warwick is one of those universities, having been awarded University of Sanctuary status in 2017.
Why is it important?
Now more than ever, people around the world are being forced to flee conflict and persecution in hope of finding safety and sanctuary elsewhere.
“Coming from a war-torn country, accessing world-class research facilities and state-of-the-art laboratories was like a dream coming true for me. Additionally, the caring support network starting from university staff to my personal supervisor has been uncanny. Warwick has zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind and the fact that it has dedicated funding for refugees speaks out and loud for that. Also, the multinational environment of Warwick is an experience itself where I have been very lucky to make friends and meet academics from all over the world. For these reasons, I strongly encourage refugees to apply to Warwick.”
Sanctuary Student, Life Sciences
The Universities of Sanctuary initiative is an important way of providing sanctuary. The initiative drives a wide range of activities that can be undertaken in terms that facilitate a genuinely welcoming and accessible environment for asylum seekers and refugees, either living locally or coming from further afield.
Coventry is a City of Sanctuary with a long history of accepting dispersed asylum seekers. It also has a more recent history of accepting resettled Syrian refugees via the SVPR (Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement) programme.
Warwick staff and students have real opportunities to make a difference both in the local community as well as within the institution by embedding a culture of hospitality within all of our activities.
As part of our efforts, there are a range of opportunities by which staff and students from every part of the university can contribute to ensuring that Warwick is a genuinely welcoming place for people seeking sanctuary in the UK.
These opportunities include:
- Carriers of Hope charity, along with the unwanted laptops and computers scheme (see more below).
- Ration Challenge event
- Warwick STAR (Student Action for Refugees)
- National STAR organisation
- BREM network
- Warwick Volunteers – CRMC (Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre)
- CARAG (Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group)
- Coventry City of Sanctuary
- National City of Sanctuary
What’s happening at Warwick and how can I be involved?
“The support I have received from Warwick is difficult to write into words. I am so grateful firstly for Warwick`s financial support for my tuition fees and living costs. I have got the chance to dream again for my goals and aims which I had lost in previous years because of the unprecedented events I faced in my life. University of Warwick has made my dreams real.
Other support I have received from Warwick has been mainly based on academic life which really filled missing parts in my knowledge and critical skills. Some examples are how to literature review, how to be successful in academic life, how to organise your own conference, how to be successful in an interview and so on. Activities I have involved in Warwick helped me have fun and get engaged with new friends.”
Sanctuary Student, PAIS
At Warwick there are already a lot of things happening which seek to increase understanding of asylum and refugee issues, and create a culture of welcome within and beyond campus.
The Universities of Sanctuary scheme enables us to connect these activities while also providing opportunities to develop new initiatives. We are working with Coventry City of Sanctuary in order to ensure Warwick effectively contributes to local activities aimed at creating a culture of hospitality in the city as well as the university, with clear actionable commitments from the university.
We have developed a phased approach over the next three years as part of our role as a University of Sanctuary, and we welcome those who want to be involved in this process. We aim to foster learning about sanctuary, embed sanctuary activities across the university, and share our activities beyond the university more widely.
University of Sanctuary is continuously evolving and we welcome input and ideas from you! Please contact Naomi Mouland (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish to propose activities or support with the University of Sanctuary initiative.
Salma Zulfiqar is an international artist and activist whose work revolves around refugees and asylum seekers. Inspired by a research project 'Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat' led by Professor Vicki Squire in our Department of Politics and International Studies, Salma created 'Routes to Peace?'. This piece is permanently located at the University of Warwick, with each "peace dove" representing a woman carrying her story with her (the scrolls).