Sanctuary Seekers’ Unit

Gaza support

The University has issued a statement calling for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in Palestine and Israel.  Here are some of the actions we as a University of Sanctuary community have been taking so far (some of which are still in development):

Technical Education Support Initiative (TESI)

This TESI scheme is being spearheaded by An-Najah National University in Nablus, West Bank.

In close consultation with academics and administrators from Gazan universities, it has developed a model of distance learning in crisis contexts through which Gazan students are given opportunities to complete their studies online. Due to the sheer numbers of students who have applied to this scheme (47,000 as of June 2024), An-Najah has put out a call for universities across the world to support this scheme in various ways, including by providing open access resources, teachers, funds and trauma support.

The University of Leicester was the first UK university to officially join this scheme (in June 2024), and is liaising with An-Najah to determine what type of support it might be best placed to provide, going forward.

Learn more about the TESI scheme

Scholarships for degree-level study

We aim to have three sets of scholarships that Gazan students can apply for: 

  • British Council HESPAL scholarships – we plan to offer a total of 4 full campus-based scholarships over the next three years. This will include 3 Master’s and 1 PhD scholarship.
  • Gaza sanctuary scholarships – we will offer 2-4 further full scholarships to Gazan students to study with us on campus.
  • Distance learning sanctuary awards – we have an existing scheme of 100+ fee waivers for a range of distance learning Master’s programmes from academic years 2023-4 to 2025-6 for students who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and/or who are at risk of political persecution, violence or conflict anywhere in the world, including Gaza.

Support for Gazan medics and medical students

Like the universities, Gaza’s hospitals have all been severely damaged or destroyed, and hundreds of medical staff have been targeted and killed, so there is an urgent need to support doctors (and medical students) so that they are able to return to Gaza to help rebuild the healthcare system when it is possible to do so.

To this end, we are looking to offer discrete online Occupational English Test provision for Gazan medics and final year medical students to enable them to complete their training and requalify to work in the UK until such time as they are able to return to Gaza. Further details to follow, but in the meantime you can contact Aleks Palanac (

Fellowships for Gazan academics

We had commenced discussions with the Council for At Risk Academics (CARA) in autumn 2023 to offer a fellowship to eminent geographer Dr Wiesam Essa from Al-Aqsa University, but he was tragically killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza before he could be evacuated. We honour his memory through an obituary, and our students have held a powerful vigil to remember Wiesam and also other academics who have been killed in Gaza over the past few months.

We are committed to working closely with CARA to offer a fellowship to another Gazan academic in the coming months.

Events related to supporting educational initiatives in Gaza

As part of our University of Sanctuary work, we have held the following two webinars to discuss ways in which UK HE can support HE in Gaza:

  • How can UK universities support HE in Palestine? (part of our programme of events for Breaking Barriers Refugee Week 2024).
    • This session included talks and a panel discussion exploring the challenges faced by the education sector in Palestine both currently and over the past few decades, and discussed ways in which universities in the UK can provide meaningful support to Palestine’s students, educators and education system as a whole. Speakers included Dr Victoria Araj (University of Lincoln, UK), Dr Shameq Sayeed (University of Leicester, UK) and Dr Saida Affouneh (An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine).
  • EAP collaborations with Gazan universities: Insights from the EAST project (a webinar hosted by the RefugEAP Network of English for Academic Purposes practitioners, which we convene).
    • In this webinar, Dr Bill Guariento (Northumbria University), expanded upon his blog post outlining how he and his former colleagues at the University of Glasgow worked with staff at the Islamic University of Gaza to develop the EAST Project. This was an online pre-sessional partnership, linking together Science, Engineering and Technology students from the two universities following a critical pedagogical agenda. 

We are also planning to host the Moon Tell Me the Truth exhibition in October 2024. This touring exhibition showcases poetry written by children in Gaza on this theme. This is part of the work of the Hands Up Project, a charity with a network of volunteers, connecting children around the world with young people in Palestine. By means of online interaction, drama and storytelling activities, it enables the use of creativity and self-expression to promote mutual understanding, personal growth, and the development of English language skills.

Information-sharing and advocacy

Due to the sheer extent of the devastation and the unique nature of this crisis, a good deal of information-sharing and advocacy has been required to attempt to mobilise an effective response across the UK Higher Education sector to address the huge need. To this end, we have:

  • compiled and continue to curate a list of educational initiatives to support Palestinian students, academics and HEIs. This is because a centralised repository of information was not available, and there was an urgent need for such a resource. If an initiative is missing from the list, it can be added via the form at the bottom. To date, this resource has been accessed hundreds of times
  • worked closely with Universities of Sanctuary to develop a guidance document on how UK universities can respond to the crisis in Palestine
  • advocated for UK Universities to provide effective support to Gazan students, academics and universities via the Universities of Sanctuary network, the RefugEAP Network and the UK HE Humanitarian Group
  • set up a ‘SancPal’ mailing list through which we keep members informed about the development of Sanctuary initiatives to support Gazan HE. If you would like to be added to this distribution list, please email Aleks Palanac (

Student solidarity actions for Palestine

We have a passionate movement of students who have been enacting our ethos as a University of Sanctuary through a range of actions:  

  • organising a range of events, including talks, an information stall, cultural activities (such as Palestinian film showings, poetry readings and a dabke evening) and a vigil for the late Dr Wiesam Essa (incoming CARA fellow who was killed in Gaza before he could evacuate to safety)
  • conducting fundraising for Gaza, such as the bake sales, charity dinner and auction run by MedRace, the Muslim Medics Forum (MMF) and the University of Leicester Palestine Society to raise over £20,000 for Medical Aid for Palestinians. Read more about these fundraising activities in this blog post.

If you would like to find out more about our Gaza support initiatives, or how to get involved, please contact Aleks Palanac (Head of Sanctuary) at

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