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Refugees are welcome ;

Developing a university blueprint for sponsoring refugees

Understanding refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers
Professor Bronwyn Parry and Dr Leonie Ansems de Vries

Professor of Global Health & Social Medicine and Reader in International Politics

15 June 2022

The magnitude of the invasion of Ukraine has increased the demand for a scaled cross-sectorial response from Higher Education. While we recognise the compassion and strength of our sector – which has set up donation schemes, scholarships and expert knowledge-exchange – we also quickly realised our need to ramp up our existing work and experience with supporting Syrian refugees through community sponsorship.

Aided by our partnerships and research expertise on migration and forced displacement, King's began developing a sponsorship model for UK universities to best implement the government’s Home for Ukraine scheme across the HE sector.

We hope to collaborate with universities and other partners from across the UK and beyond to achieve this wider ambition and bring about real and lasting change for people impacted by forced migration and displacement.

What is community sponsorship?

Community sponsorship is a way that community groups can be involved in supporting the resettlement of vulnerable people fleeing conflict.

The Service and Sanctuary teams at King's, along with support from colleagues from across the university, have developed a sponsorship model for UK universities to resettle refugee students and support them in continuing their education. This is part of a wider ambition to develop new education-led complementary pathways for forcibly displaced people worldwide.

Find out more about community sponsorship

Learning from experience when it comes to sponsorship

King’s has been working to support refugees since 2015 through the Sanctuary programme, which facilitates several groundbreaking projects for delivering educational opportunities to refugee learners.

Here’s what we’ve come to realise:

  • Working with partners and learning from their experience is key to success: Working in partnership with Citizens UK, the UNHCR and the Home Office enabled us to become the first university to be accredited as a Community Sponsor under the UK Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme. We now act as the host community for a displaced refugee student and their family. We are delighted that the eldest daughter of the family will start a fully funded degree in engineering at King’s in September 2022.
  • We’re nothing without our volunteers: our partners demonstrated that the strength of this refugee resettlement programme will be our community of volunteers. Our dedicated volunteer team from across the King’s community have helped us to secure housing and wrap-around support, including accessing healthcare, school registration, benefits advice and English language support. It is only by working together that we have been able to transform the lives of the refugee family we sponsor and help them make London, and King’s, their home.
  • We can increase our impact by supporting other institutions: thanks to an ESRC impact acceleration grant, we have been able to use our expertise on sponsorship to work with universities across the UK who are interested in becoming refugee sponsors.

Now, we aim to create a workable blueprint and a set of useful resources for universities who would like to host Ukrainian students and academics. We’ve been working with partner organisations to develop a model for how this scheme might look like.

Our university refugee sponsorship model

The Homes for Ukraine scheme is focused on placing Ukrainians in suitable accommodation for six months. Our university refugee sponsorship model offers more: our partnering organisations will use their shared experience and resources to identify displaced students and ascertain their current programmes of study. Refugee students can then be matched with universities that offer a similar degree course to that from which they were displaced.

Students will have the opportunity to stay engaged with their studies, for instance by sitting in on modules and accessing online courses. Participating universities will have access to a portal of resources and guidance to facilitate successful hosting of displaced students and scholars, including with respect to their safety and wellbeing.

In addition to this, King’s continues to work with the Council for At Risk Academics (CARA) to match applicants with relevant departments, welcoming academics at risk from anywhere in the world and providing support where the need is greatest.

This work has been borne out of challenging circumstances, but it highlights the strength of our sector and our communities. The hope is that by working together, we can help to make a positive difference to people whose education and research has been disrupted by forced displacement.

In this story

Bronwyn Parry

Bronwyn Parry

Visiting Professor

Leonie  Ansems de Vries

Leonie Ansems de Vries

Reader in International Politics

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