We spoke to Michaela Hodges, Social Inclusion Manager, about Warwick's vision for social inclusion and our University of Sanctuary work.
Could you start by telling us a bit about your role?
I am one of the University’s Social Inclusion Managers, working in the Social Inclusion Group. The team provide advice, guidance, consultation, and coaching to departments and business units across the University to ensure that social inclusion is embedded in all of Warwick’s work.
On University of Sanctuary, I work with colleagues in teams across the University to ensure the implementation of our UoS action plan (which we submitted as part of our accreditation application). This work impacts on a number of different areas, such as admissions, community engagement, and widening participation. The actions in this plan are focused around increasing access to higher education for people seeking sanctuary, improving the experience of these students whilst studying at Warwick, and increasing our engagement with sanctuary-related work in the community.
What are the University’s ambitions on social inclusion?
Social Inclusion at the University of Warwick is about removing economic, social, and cultural barriers that have prevented people from working, studying, and succeeding here.
We launched the University’s Social Inclusion Strategy in August 2019 as a framework to deliver this ambition. The Strategy outlines three key strategic objectives to 2030:
- Increase the diversity of Warwick’s staff and students.
- Develop a culture that supports students and staff in achieving their potential.
- Become an internationally recognised leader in social inclusion.
What is University of Sanctuary?
Higher education institutions in the UK have a proud and radical tradition of supporting refugees and people in the asylum system. The University of Sanctuary award recognises commitment to creating a culture of safety, solidarity, and empowerment for people seeking sanctuary within, and beyond, university campuses.
To be recognised as a University of Sanctuary institutions apply through an accreditation process which focuses on the principles of learning, embedding, and sharing. These principles have been developed in recognition of the unique role higher education institutions can play in creating and promoting a culture of welcome. Universities as places of research and learning, are ideally placed to develop and promote learning about what it means to seek sanctuary, to embed this learning within their institution, and to celebrate and share their practices of welcome with other universities and the wider community.
Is Warwick a University of Sanctuary, and what are we doing in this area?
Yes, the University of Warwick was awarded Sanctuary status in 2017 and we successfully applied for reaccreditation in 2020.
We’re working on a number of things in this area including offering scholarships and contextual offers for people seeking sanctuary, making additional careers programmes available, opening up peer networks, working with local councils to discuss how we can work them to support refugees from recent crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine both at the university and in the city, our Warwick STAR group run conversation and homework clubs for refugees living in the local area, and our BREM Network is an open forum for research on borders, race, ethnicity and migration.
What can staff and students do to support this work?
One of the most valuable things we can do all do is educate ourselves. Do you know the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee? Are you familiar with the UK asylum process? Do you know why people migrate? You can find answers to all these questions in our newly launched University of Sanctuary introductory training for staff and students.
There is also more information on our University of Sanctuary webpages about how people can get involved and an ideas board for staff and students to share things they’re doing.
What’s in your travel mug, tea or coffee?
Both – although not at the same time of course 😁
What is your favourite place on campus?
It has to be the bluebell wood; it is just beautiful. Of course in the spring when the bluebells are out, but also during autumn for the array of colourful foliage.
What's your favourite book?
I love reading, so picking just one favourite is basically impossible for me!
I do a lot of reading around social inclusion to expand my knowledge – I’d recommend The Class Ceiling, Black and British, and Superior (the first two are both fairly long, but worth it).
For fun (not that learning about equality isn’t fun!), since it’s just been Halloween, I’m currently reading Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’, plus every year at Christmastime I read Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’, so I’ll be revisiting that soon.