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Solent becomes a University of Sanctuary

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Solent University, Southampton has been recognised as a University of Sanctuary for their commitment to supporting and improving the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers.

Awarded by City of Sanctuary, a national charity dedicated to welcoming displaced people to the UK, universities of sanctuary are playing a key role in dismantling barriers to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers and fostering inclusive communities.

Solent is one of 34 universities to receive this status, recognising their grass roots outreach in Southampton’s diverse communities and dedicated programme of support for sanctuary seekers. Working closely with City Life Church’s CLEAR project, as well as Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG), Solent offers tailored support for communities, delivering collaborative activities to enhance the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor James Knowles, says:

“We are an access institution committed to academic excellence, so inclusion is one of our core purposes as a university, and cultivating a culture of welcome is integral to our ethos. Solent University already collaborates closely with organisations and charities to improve the experiences of displaced people and the City of Sanctuary’s recognition of our approach gives us a solid foundation for continuing this work.

“We are keen to drive this important work forward, in collaboration with other organisations through the Southampton Sanctuary Network, and we call on others who are keen to support those displaced by persecution, war, natural disasters, and other events beyond their control, to join in.”

As a University of Sanctuary, Solent has been recognised for its commitment to ensuring their campus, curriculum and community is a safe and empowering place for displaced people; promoting allyship and solidarity with global communities. The University’s Communities Development team lead this work, nurturing relationships across the city that grow support for sanctuary seekers.

As part of their commitment to transforming the lives of people from all backgrounds through real-world learning, the University offers an annual Sanctuary Scholarship that covers course fees and provides a £3,000 grant. Applicants can apply for a contextual offer based on flexible acceptance criteria, as part of Solent’s aim to dismantle barriers to higher education.

Solent’s second-year Sanctuary Scholar says:

“Celebrating Solent’s University of Sanctuary status is a testament to its commitment and inclusivity. As a current scholar, I’ve found a welcoming community that fosters diversity, empowering students to thrive in an environment that values everyone’s unique perspectives and contribution.”

In 2023, the University launched the Southampton Sanctuary Network with Southampton City Council and City Life Church. The network connects organisations across the city to share best practice and insight into how best to support refugees and asylum seekers, making the city a place of safety for displaced people. To find out more and join contact .

The University works with a range of community-based organisations, including Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group, who have supported the development of Solent’s scholarship and outreach programmes. Amanda Caspari, Voluntary Support Worker at SWVG, says:

“Solent University has worked with us to develop activities for refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton, providing a welcoming, supportive and friendly environment for displaced people, seen through their student community, activities and the facilities they offer to SWVG. 

“One of our clients was the University’s first Sanctuary Scholar, and she has gone on to a career in civil and environmental engineering; Solent’s excellent support helped her to achieve her goals under difficult circumstances. The care and attention Solent has offered to help refugees and asylum seekers has been outstanding. We look forward to developing new initiatives with them in 2024.”

Now, as a University of Sanctuary, Solent will continue to expand their work in this area, supporting Solent Students’ Union to develop a STAR (Student Action For Refugees) group, delivering annual training for staff and students to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the challenges people fleeing their homes face, and continue working in the city to reach and support more communities. Universities of Sanctuary Coordinator, Maryam Taher says:

“We are delighted that Solent University is joining the University of Sanctuary network. Their journey showed great commitment towards supporting people seeking sanctuary, and a real desire to receive feedback and continue to develop. The panel was excited about the University’s future plans and ideas to enhance support in the community. We see the University playing an important role in providing welcome and helping underrepresented communities flourish.”

Find out more about Solent’s work as a University of Sanctuary, and how to get involved, here.

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