Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

King’s Sanctuary Programme


The 10-year vision of the Sanctuary Programme is to realise the educational potential of forcibly displaced young people.

The Sanctuary Programme was formed in 2015 in response to the global issue of forced displacement, which affects more than 100 million people worldwide. The programme aims to initiate and lead on projects that create positive opportunities for young people whose education has been disrupted due to being displaced.

The Sanctuary Programme includes a range of projects, including the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA), Sanctuary Scholarships and the King's Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme. The programme also aims to enhance understanding of forced migration among staff and students at King’s and to develop opportunities for them to make a positive contribution.

At its heart, the Sanctuary Programme represents King's historic commitment to serving society. 

Key initiatives

King's College London is partnering with Citizens UK and others to lead on a sponsorship model for UK universities to help host displaced Ukranian students and academics. This initiative builds on King’s longstanding work into creating opportunities for forcefully displaced people through the King’s Sanctuary Programme.

As the UK’s first university to act as a Community Sponsor for a refugee family displaced by the Syrian war, King’s is sharing learnings from that scheme to deliver a model for how UK universities might best implement the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. 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.

Find out more about King's University Sponsorship Model

Read this WonkHE blog to learn more about the scheme by Professor Bronwyn Parry and Dr Leonie Ansems de Vries

Discover ways to support communities impacted by the invasion of Ukraine

In February 2020, King’s was named the first Refugees Welcome University by community organising charity Citizens UK. As part of our commitment to support refugees, King’s worked in partnership with Citizens UK, the Home Office and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to become the first university to be accredited as a Community Sponsor as part of 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.

The King’s Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme has provided an opportunity for a refugee student, who has been displaced as a result of the Syrian conflict, and their family to find a new and welcoming home in London. The eldest child will receive a scholarship to undertake an undergraduate degree at King's in September 2022.

Having established this university community sponsorship scheme, the project team hope to set a precedent for other UK Higher Education Institutions to become community sponsors and are keen to share their knowledge and experience. The King’s Refugee Community Sponsorship model is being developed via an ESRC Impact Acceleration Grant to encourage and support other universities to help resettle refugees as part of a wider ambition to develop new education-led complementary pathways for forcibly displaced people worldwide.

Find out more about the King's Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme

Find out more about Community Sponsorship

In February 2020, Citizens UK named King’s College London as the UK’s first ‘Refugees Welcome University’ in recognition of its contribution to understanding and responding to the global issue of forced displacement.

The Refugees Welcome accreditation scheme recognises universities that have made a commitment to welcome forced migrants into their institution and community, offer a comprehensive programme of education and research on migration, and develop an action plan to improve the lives of forced migrants in the UK.

In addition to a migration research programme and inclusion into the curriculum of issues faced by refugees, King’s offers a scholarship scheme for forced migrants in the UK, leads the development and delivery of educational programmes in the Middle East, and is working to bring a family to the UK under the UK’s Community Sponsorship Scheme.

Find out more about King's accreditation as the first 'Refugees Welcome University'

Find out more about Citizens UK

At King’s College London we recognise that any legal background of involuntary immigration can have a significant impact on educational opportunities and outcomes, and therefore provide pre-entry and on-course support to forced migrant students. This includes the following:

Pre-university support – King’s recognises the challenges faced by forced migrant students and offer extensive support before they start at university. This includes the K+ programme for Year 12 and 13 students from Greater London and some of the surrounding areas. If you are a forced migrant student, your application to K+ would be prioritised.

Application support – King's has a designated member of staff (pre-entry), who can assist forced migrant students with all aspects of the application process. You can talk about course choices, receive feedback on a draft personal statement, tips on interviews as well as guidance on King's other support services.

Additional admissions consideration – If you are a forced migrant and applying to study at King’s, we strongly advise you to disclose this directly to us. This will allow admissions staff to take your circumstances into consideration and will not have a negative impact on your application. We use this data to holistically assess an applicant’s future potential to succeed and to differentiate between similar highly qualified candidates.

Applying for student finance – King’s can offer support to forced migrant students in identifying whether they are eligible for student finance based on their immigration status. If students are not eligible, we can help explore other avenues of financial support.

Financial support – King’s has a number of scholarships specifically for forced migrant students. Details of these scholarships are below.

Support for students at university – Starting university is a very exciting time but it can also be overwhelming. King’s recognises that it can be particularly daunting if you have come from a forced migrant background or if you have a challenging home situation so we have support available to help manage the transition to university. This includes bespoke inductions and The Buddy Scheme. We also have a designated advisor for sanctuary scholars currently at King's who can help with any queries about higher education, whether that be about accommodation, studying or finances.

Find out more about support for forced migrant students

King’s leads the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA), which was formed to meet the educational needs of a mobile and digitally literate refugee population in Jordan and Lebanon. The partnership consists of King’s, 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 delivers blended foundation and short courses and has launched eight bespoke courses on FutureLearn, designed by King’s Online and King’s Faculties. This includes English Elementary, English Intermediate, 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 onto one of the PADILEIA courses to gain competencies essential to business management, entrepreneurship, nursing and digital skills. In addition, some of the courses have been included in the Department for Education’s Skills Toolkit and the Grow stronger with Google initiative, allowing them to reach significantly more beneficiaries.

Find out more about PADILEIA

Since 2016, King’s has provided Sanctuary Scholarships for students who are asylum seekers or have been granted limited leave to remain and have no access to Student Finance. The scholarships comprise full tuition fee support and help with living costs per academic year of an undergraduate programme. To date, King’s has offered twenty-eight scholarships .

We have a designated advisor for sanctuary scholars currently at King's. They can help with any queries about higher education, whether that be about accommodation, studying or finances.

One of the most recent recipients said: ‘This Sanctuary Scholarship is hope renewed for me and my family. Words can’t truly express my gratitude, it is a blessing and a fresh start for me. My aspirations to go to a world-renowned university and begin to realise my career ambitions are being fulfilled and it all feels like a dream!’ 

Find out more about the King's Sanctuary Scholarships

Find out more about support available at King’s for forced migrant students

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 and the Centre for Migration and Resettlement. Recent projects include Moving Hearts, Migrant Voices in London and Enacting border security in the digital age.

Find out more:

Migration Research Group

Centre for Migration and Resettlement

Moving Hearts

Enacting border security in the digital age

Migrant Voices in London

Kneading Knowledge

Researching the experiences of refugees, migration and social exclusion

Refugee Mental Health & Place Network

The topic of migration and refugees features in curricula across the university through both standard modules and innovative learning initiatives. The latter includes the development of the service module ‘Migration, Social Justice and Community Organising’, which combines class-based learning with societal impact as students develop and run a community organising campaign with Citizens UK.

King's Legal Clinic offers free legal advice to students and staff at King’s and members of the public, including people with a forced migration background. The Clinic is run in partnership with Duncan Lewis Immigration and Asylum Clinic.

Find out more about King's Legal Clinic

King's Student Action for Refugees (KCL STAR) is a student-run organisation that aims to raise awareness of refugee issues and promote the integration of refugees and asylum seekers into society. STAR volunteers work at three programmes for students from refugee backgrounds in London, including homework clubs and an outreach programme focusing on how to apply to university in the UK.

Find out more about KCL STAR


Making a positive difference

Forced migration particularly impacts young people, disrupting their education and potentially creating a ‘lost generation’ with few prospects. To help prevent this scenario from occurring, King’s will continue to harness its expertise in education, online resources, existing international partnerships, knowledge of the affected regions, and ability to initiate and lead on projects that create positive opportunities for forcibly displaced young people.

The Sanctuary Programme also supports the meaningful contributions that the King’s community can make. As forced migration affects people locally as well as across the world, everyone at King’s can make a difference.