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Creating educational opportunities for forced migrants

In May 2022, the United Nations reported that there are now more than 100 million people forcibly displaced across the world. This number includes more than 53.2 million people who are displaced inside their own countries. Forced displacement particularly impacts young people who face many challenges in accessing and continuing their education, with just 5% of refugees accessing education (compared to 39% of non-refugees). To mark World Refugee Day (20 June) and UK Refugee Week (20-26 June), we reflect on how King’s College London is responding to the global issue of forced displacement and creating educational opportunities for refugees and other forced migrants.

King’s Sanctuary Programme was formed in 2015 in response to the global issue of forced displacement and includes a wide range of projects that create positive opportunities for people whose education has been disrupted due to being displaced. King’s also works to enhance the understanding of forced migration among students and staff, and develop opportunities for them to make a positive contribution. At its heart, the King’s Sanctuary Programme represents the university’s historic commitment to serving society.

Forced displacement is a global issue that has a devastating impact on more and more people each year. I am immensely proud of King's longstanding work in responding to this issue through our Sanctuary Programme but there is more to do. We will continue to harness our research expertise, education and commitment to positive social impact in order to support forcibly displaced people from all over the world.– Professor Evelyn Welch, Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning)

Forced migrants


The term 'forced migrant' is an umbrella term for the following immigration backgrounds:

  • Asylum seeker is someone who has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the ECHR
  • Refugee is a former asylum seeker person who has been granted refuge in a country other than their home country. They have been able to prove that if they are returned home, they will be prosecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.
  • Humanitarian Protection is given to people, if sent back, would face punishment due to a previously not mentioned case.
  • Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child status is given in unique cases for children arriving to the country separated from their parents, for a limited period of time, usually until they turn 17.5.
  • Limited Leave to Remain (previously Discretionary Leave to Remain) is given for applicants with unique cases to remain in the UK for a limited period of time

Supporting students to continue their education

Since 2016, King’s has provided Sanctuary Scholarships for undergraduate students who are asylum seekers or have been granted limited leave to remain and have no access to student finance. These scholarships, which are generously supported by philanthropy, represent King’s commitment to equipping students for success and supporting them in reaching their potential. Each scholarship covers full tuition fees and a means-tested living bursary to ensure recipients have the financial security they need to thrive at university. To date, King’s has offered twenty-eight scholarships to students who would otherwise not have been able to access higher education.

Going to university was never a decision; it always seemed like a necessary part of my journey, and this would not have been possible without this scholarship. My life would be on a different path: a path that would make it very difficult to pursue my ambition and grow academically.– Samuel Remi-Akinwale, Sanctuary Scholar

A report conducted by the What Works team into the experiences of the King’s Sanctuary Scholars found that, through their access to higher education being unlocked by the scholarships, the students achieved a deeper sense of self-belief, gained a greater sense of power and autonomy, and experienced improved levels of confidence.


Judith Nantomah, a Sanctuary Scholar who is studying on the Adult Nursing BA programme at King’s, shared how the scholarship alleviated her financial worries, allowing her to focus on her studies and pursue her passion for nursing. ‘Since I received my scholarship, I have been able to go on clinical placements and therefore not worry about being dismissed from my course. Transportation costs were a big issue. Without any other source of funds, I was always thinking of how far the very little I had could go or take me.’


In 2018, the Dr Monica Malik Refugee Bursary was also established at King’s to support postgraduate students from refugee or humanitarian protection backgrounds. Through this bursary, Dr Monica Malik (King’s alumna, Geography, 1992) wants to help refugee students achieve their dreams of obtaining a postgraduate degree and give them hope. Supporting the students through the bursary is also rewarding for Monica, who reflected ‘It has been so meaningful for me to get to know the students that I’ve helped and to hear their stories. It’s very moving to have that connection.’


Delivering blended learning for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon

The Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA) was formed to meet the educational needs of refugees affected by the Syrian war and disadvantaged local youth in Jordan and Lebanon. Running from 2016 to 2022, this innovative partnership consists of King’s (led by Dr Tania Lima, Director of Global Engagement), Al Al-Bayt University in Jordan, and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, as well as Kiron Open Higher Education (a digital-education NGO) and FutureLearn (a leader in online learning).


PADILEIA delivered blended foundation, study tracks and short courses, and launched eight bespoke open access courses on FutureLearn that were designed by King’s Online and King’s Faculties. These courses include English for Healthcare, Introduction to Nursing, Business, Entrepreneurship, Digital Skills and Engineering. To date, over 13,000 self-identifying refugees and disadvantaged young people have participated in one of these courses, and more than 1 million learners worldwide have enrolled.


To aid students’ learning and help them prepare for university, study hubs were set up in Jordan in Lebanon where students had access to facilitators, wrap-around support and a sense of community. 510 students followed the PADILEIA foundation programme and 102 graduates have gone on to continue their education and enrol at university.

Developing education-led pathways to resettlement

As part of a wider ambition to create education-led resettlement pathways, King’s worked in partnership with Citizens UK, the Home Office and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to be the first university to be accredited as a Community Sponsor through the UK Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme.

In December 2021, King’s became the first UK university to resettle a refugee student and their family under this scheme, helping them to make London their new home. We are delighted that the student has received full funding to undertake an undergraduate degree in engineering at King’s in September 2022.

The King’s Refugee Support Team (KRES), a dedicated volunteer team from across the King’s community, secured housing for the family and have provided them with wrap-around support since their arrival, including accessing healthcare, school registration, benefits advice and English language support. 

It has been an exciting honour to be part of the King’s Sanctuary Programme and to help with rehousing a displaced family from Syria to London. I have worked with colleagues, alumni and external organisations to combine our collective skills and experiences to form a welcome group designed to provide wrap-around support for the family. I feel proud to have been part of the group and I feel that through participating in this scheme, we have all embodied and enacted the values of Service that have historically been integral to King’s and shows the continuing relevance in today’s world.– Louise Bolderstone, Senior Contracts Associate and member of the King’s Refugee Support Team

The King’s Refugee Community Sponsorship model is part of a longer-term, research-informed vision and commitment to develop a global sponsorship programme, including the development of safe pathways for students and academic whose studies or research has been disrupted due to conflict and/or displacement.


To achieve this vision, King’s has been working in partnership with other universities to support them in becoming Community Sponsors and to develop education-led pathways for forcibly displaced people worldwide. The war on Ukraine has made the rapid scaling of this work extremely urgent.


Responding to the invasion of Ukraine

Following the war on Ukraine, King’s partnered with Citizens UK to adapt the government’s ‘Home for Ukraine’ sponsorship scheme for university communities. Working with other strategic university partners, King’s has developed a University Refugee Community Sponsorship model that draws specifically on the strengths of higher education institutions and their communities to support Ukrainian students and academics.


This model will provide a blueprint for how university communities can work together to host displaced students and academics, and a set of resources and detailed guidance on how best to support hosts and refugees through that process.

Learn more and take part this Refugee Week

#RefugeeWeek events at King’s

To mark Refugee Week 2022, King's is hosting a range of events to highlight and celebrate the many ways that the King's community responds to the global issue of forced displacement and work to create opportunities for forcefully displaced people. The week-long campaign for Refugee Week 2022 at King’s includes events involving leading academics, people with lived experience and charities that support refugees and forced migrants.


Discover #RefugeeWeek events at King’s


Migration and refugee research at King’s

King’s scholars develop world class research that impacts on the issues of refugees, migration and borders through a range of research centres, projects and events, which actively engage King’s staff and students as well as the wider community. King’s hosts the Migration Research Group, the Centre for Migration and Resettlement and the Refugee Mental Health & Place Network.


For Refugee Week 2022, experts and students from across the School of Global Affairs (SGA) share their insights on climate refugees, mental health for refugees and migrants, policies in conflict with global movement (including those related to asylum seekers), and society's interaction with displaced persons.

 SGA expert series: Understanding refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers


Get in touch

King's Sanctuary Team:


Support the King's Sanctuary Programme

To support the Students of Sanctuary appeal and help give more students displaced by conflict the chance to rebuild their lives, please visit

Contact Sarah Cook, Head of Philanthropy, to find out more about ways to support:

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