15 January 2021

Sanctuary in learning: supporting asylum seekers and refugees in higher education

Today we are publishing information about universities’ contribution to supporting the learning of asylum seekers and refugees in Wales.

Our universities are working with local communities and third sector organisations to reach out and connect with asylum seekers and refugees of all ages, many of whom may be highly qualified in their own countries or are seeking to retrain. Providing these new opportunities for the communities of Wales contributes to universities’ wider civic mission and corporate social responsibility commitments.

City of Sanctuary holds the vision that the UK will be a welcoming place of safety to all. It has partnered with Article 26, Student Action for Refugees and others to develop a network to inspire and support universities to develop a culture and a practice of welcome within their universities, in their wider communities, and across the higher education sector in the UK. A number of universities in Wales are working towards achieving ‘Universities of Sanctuary’ status as part of their wider commitments to a fair and equal Wales.

Universities’ students’ unions have set up Coffee and Conversation groups to provide informal spaces for people with refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds to meet staff and students and share learning. The Coffee and Conversation model is part of a UK-wide initiative to promote community integration and meet the needs of refugee populations.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ goal is for 15% of refugees to have access to higher education worldwide by 2030. We will continue to encourage all universities in Wales to promote the opportunities in higher education for refugees and asylum seekers and to contribute to a more equal Wales.

Today’s publication contributes to, and supports, the Welsh Government’s priorities set out in its Nation of Sanctuary – Refugee and Asylum Seeker plan which aims to make Wales a nation of sanctuary for all.

Universities have shared with us the ways in which they support both staff and students with an asylum seeker and/or refugee background. Examples of support shown in the publication include widening access opportunities to higher education, providing information, advice and guidance, making available targeted bursaries and creating opportunities to connect with university staff and students.

The last word goes to a Sudanese student who was a civil engineer. He explained how his university experience in Wales, and specifically the Aspire Summer School, had been an enormous help in allowing him to improve his English, which was a huge boost to his confidence.

“Thanks to the friendly and accommodating tutors, I now feel comfortable working with academic material through the English language. I’m now looking forward to taking the next steps in my career as a designer and in building a new future for myself.”

Savanna Jones, Widening Access and Inclusion Manager