University of Sanctuary

Every 60 seconds, 20 people leave behind everything in their lives to escape war, persecution or terror. They become refugees and asylum seekers in an unfamiliar country, far from their friends and family and often without the language skills to communicate effectively. 

The University of Leicester is committed to offering support and sanctuary to refugees and asylum seekers from around the world and in so doing, helping them to change their lives for the better.

Finding Freedom: Parang’s Journey to Sanctuary

Watch Parang's story

Parang Khezri is a 31-year-old Iranian refugee studying at the University of Leicester. She fled Iran in 2015, leaving behind her family and friends, and making the harrowing journey to the UK alone. 

Back in Iran, Parang graduated from university in Tehran with a degree in drama and film. She used her skills as a film maker to shine a light on issues in Iran. During the filming of a documentary on musicians who were secretly performing in a country where musical expression is restricted, a warrant was issued by the state police for her detention in Iran.  

Consequently, Parang felt she had no choice but to go into hiding, eventually escaping the country with the help of friends. Her journey to safety took several weeks. She was threatened by traffickers, and after speaking out to protect a young boy whose abuse she witnessed, was locked in a dark refrigerated unit overnight and told she would be killed should she speak out again. Despite these experiences, she finally made it to the UK where she sought asylum.

Parang realised that if she was to succeed in drama and film in the UK, she needed to possess sufficiently strong English language skills to communicate effectively and express herself and her opinions.

In Leicester, a City of Sanctuary, Parang has found sanctuary and the opportunity to realise her new life with the help of the University of Leicester.  The University of Sanctuary programme has offered her support and a level of English language tuition that she hasn’t found on courses anywhere else: “What I have been taught at the University is just amazing. What I am learning offers me the chance to be able to work professionally again in the future, and to progress my education to gain additional qualifications. I believe that the University can change the future of refugees.”

Parang continues: “Leicester University of Sanctuary deals with the refugee crisis in such a positive manner. They can see the ways in which I, and my fellow refugees, can benefit society as well as the ways in which the University can support us. I hope that more universities will be able to do the same for other refugees.” 

Key statistics

Every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.

Over 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.

51% of refugees are under the age of 18.

Between March 2018 and February 2019 40 refugees and asylum seekers have attended pre-sessional full time English classes at the University.