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King’s Sanctuary Programme


King’s Sanctuary Programme was formed in 2015 in response to the global issue of forced displacement. King’s has harnessed its expertise in education and remote learning, world-class research and existing partnerships to initiate and lead on projects that create positive opportunities for forcibly displaced people. At its heart, the Sanctuary Programme represents King’s commitment to serving society. 

The King’s Sanctuary Programme includes a range of projects, such as our Sanctuary Scholarships, the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA), the University Sponsorship Model and the Sanctuary Hub. Through its flagship initiatives, King’s has supported sanctuary seekers to thrive in higher education, educated thousands of displaced people through blended bridging programmes and bespoke contextualised online university courses, has enriched the UK community sponsorship scheme by developing an education-led pathway for forcefully displaced students and academics. Working to ensure education remains a right for all, these innovative projects give individuals affected by conflict and displacement unrivalled opportunities to rebuild their lives and fulfil their potential. 

King’s also aims to enhance understanding of forced displacement among our students, staff and alumni and to develop opportunities for them to make a positive contribution through engagement activities, training and volunteering opportunities.

Key initiatives

King’s has been recognised for its world-class research on migration and borders. There are a range of research groups and projects at King’s that actively engage students, staff and the wider community in the global issue of forced displacement, and which also platform migrant voices and ensure they are at the centre of King’s research. Research grants totalling over £3 million have had both a global and national lens, exploring diverse and relevant topics of refugee mental health, inclusive integration and migration systems, climate change and forced migration and evidence-based studies on statelessness, borders and integration that inform policy. This research informs King’s Sanctuary initiatives and vice versa, with research, education, and social and policy impact all feeding into one another to shape the Sanctuary Programme’s three strategic priorities.

Find out more:

Migration Research Group

Refugee Mental Health and Place Network

The University Sponsorship Model is a cross-sector collaborative widening participation initiative that provides a safe route to the UK, and access to Higher Education and support to thrive for forcibly displaced students and academics. King’s College London piloted university sponsorship in 2021 and expanded the initiative in response to the war in Ukraine.

Working in partnership with The Open University, Newcastle University and the University of Leicester, King’s developed a model that enables the higher education sector to help displaced students and academics to find safety and continue their academic journeys. The wider ambition is to develop a model and policy that supports forced migrants worldwide.

By shaping policy and providing forced migrants with unrivalled opportunities to access higher education, the University Sponsorship Model actively contributes to the UNHCR’s goal to increase enrolment of refugees in higher education to 15% by 2030 and creates safe and legal higher education pathways.

Find out more about the University Sponsorship Model

King’s College London is a supporting organisation of City of Sanctuary and has signed the national organisational pledge:

We support the ‘City of Sanctuary’ vision that the UK will be a welcoming place of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. We endorse the City of Sanctuary Charter, and agree to act in accordance with City of Sanctuary values and apply the network principles within our work (as far as our specific context enables us to). We recognise the contribution of refugees and people seeking sanctuary to British society. Sanctuary seekers are welcomed, included and supported within our organisation. We expect our branches or local groups (if any) to support their local City of Sanctuary group if one exists, and will facilitate contact between them and their local City of Sanctuary group. We are willing for our organisation’s name to be added to a list of supporters of City of Sanctuary, linked to our website. We are also willing to be contacted by City of Sanctuary with further ideas for how we can turn our support into practical action and to discuss ways we might work together to promote the vision further.

Find out more about City of Sanctuary

Read King's College London's City of Sanctuary pledge

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

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 provided 39 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

PADILEA 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). To meet the diverse needs of the students, their individual interests and immediate goals, the PADILEIA project team developed a three-pronged approach, which included eight bespoke online courses, a blended foundation programme, and self-paced study tracks with locally recognised course modules. To aid students’ learning, study hubs were set up in Jordan and Lebanon where students had access to facilitators, computers and internet, as well as wrap-around support and a sense of community.

The eight online bespoke PADILEIA courses were designed by King’s Online and King’s Faculties. The course subjects were chosen based on needs assessment and knowledge from partners on the gap between school-leavers and university entry requirements. Courses were developed to be mobile friendly and optimised for low bandwidth so that the learners could easily access them from anywhere and continue their studies.

Over 13,000 self-identifying refugees and disadvantaged young people in Lebanon and Jordan participated in one of the bespoke online courses, and more than 1 million learners have enrolled worldwide. In addition, over 1,000 students participated in the blended programmes, with 510 students following PADILEIA’s innovative Foundation Programme and 102 graduates going on to continue their education and enrol at university, studying over 20 different subjects.

Find out more about PADILEIA

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


Meet the team

The Sanctuary Programme Team work in partnership with students, staff, communities and partners to fulfil the ambitions of the King's Sanctuary Programme and support 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.