University of Leicester awarded University of Sanctuary Recognition

The University of Leicester has been recognised as a University of Sanctuary; one of only eight in the country and the only one in the region.

The announcement was made on Armistice Day by President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle CBE, marking 100 years to the day for the establishment of the endowment fund that led to the creation of the University.

Established in the wake of the Great War as a living memorial for those who made sacrifices, the motto of the University is: Ut Vitam Habeant ‘So that they may have life’.

Professor Boyle said: “The recognition that Leicester is a University of Sanctuary, in a City of Sanctuary, is tremendous recognition and a testament to the work done by colleagues to make our University more inclusive and welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers.

“The announcement, on the 100 year anniversary of when the fund was established to create the University, is hugely timely and speaks to the ethos of the University to use higher education as a force for good in the community.”

The announcement was made in the presence of the Lord-Lieutenant for Leicestershire Michael Kapur OBE, civic dignitaries and representatives of the armed forces as well as members of the Sanctuary movement.

Sir David Attenborough OM and Michael Attenborough CBE, both honorary graduates and Distinguished Honorary Fellows of the University of Leicester, attended and spoke at the Remembrance Day event at the University, and Sir David praised the University for achieving the accolade of becoming a University of Sanctuary.

He said the University, like the city itself, is well known for its general humanity and support of the community. He described how the city had provided shelter for children in the Basque conflict and thereafter for Jewish families. He cited in particular how the University had played a part in providing vocations for Jewish scientists allowing them to escape Nazi Germany.

Sir David said: “This University has a wonderful reputation for humanity, for culture, for generosity as do the citizens of this ancient noble city. I believe it will continue because you have now become a University of Sanctuary offering scholarships to people who come here for many reasons to seek safety, sanctuary and learning. And you, the citizens of this city, will be supporting them and I hope will continue to support them.

“It is a proud boast that I have that I was reared on this campus. It is a wonderful University. I feel it in my blood, and I am truly privileged to be here at this epoch making event launching yet a new enterprise of generosity for new citizens of Leicester.”

Colleen Molloy, National Development Officer for City of Sanctuary UK and a graduate of the University, presented the certificate to the President and Vice-Chancellor. She said: “We in City of Sanctuary UK look forward to working with Leicester to provide case studies and inspiration to support other universities to embed inclusive practice and engage staff and students in understanding and action to reduce the barriers for people seeking sanctuary to access HE. Universities lead and influence local communities and the University of Leicester can be proud of its moral stance and excellence and new opportunities to lead other universities to contribute to the shared vision of community cohesion, welcome and inclusion for all."

“Being a University of Sanctuary is more than a case of being welcoming – it is about embedding in every layer of the University a deep understanding of the needs of refugees in order to ensure that lives and talents are not wasted and to harness the fantastic contribution that refugees and asylum seekers can make to our society."

“The University of Leicester has clearly demonstrated its commitment to the Sanctuary ethos and as a member of the University of Leicester alumni community, I am especially proud to welcome it to the growing movement of Universities of Sanctuary.”

The University of Leicester launched its bid to become a University of Sanctuary in October 2017, defined as one that 'offers good practice in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into the university community and fostering a culture of welcome and inclusion for all'.

Leicester City of Sanctuary is a charity which aims to hold true to the multicultural and multi-ethnic ethos of the city itself, welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and integrating them into our city and community.

Phil Horspool, Director of the English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) at the University of Leicester and Chair of the University of Sanctuary Steering Group, said: “From the outset, we were committed to becoming a University of Sanctuary. At the launch event, we heard poetry readings and music from those seeking sanctuary as well as from campaigners.

“Our aim throughout has been to involve colleagues from across our University to support refugees and asylum seekers as well as actively involving refugees and asylum seekers in University life.”

Shali Bullough, Leicester City of Sanctuary co-ordinator, said: “The University of Leicester is a key partner for Leicester City of Sanctuary and we value the contribution they make helping us to improve the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in our city. I am delighted that the University has achieved this recognition and we look forward to finding new ways of working together and strengthening our partnership.”

During the year, the University has organised and participated in a multitude of events and initiatives – in the city and on campus – aimed at supporting refugees and asylum seekers and raising awareness for initiatives to support them.

These have included film screenings, poetry recitals, volunteering events, art exhibitions, language training, conferences and advice workshops. From November 12-17, as part of the celebration for achieving University of Sanctuary Status, a number of events are being held including film screenings, a conversation cafe, a training session for teaching staff, a volunteering fair, a mini open day for refugees, and a closing show with a local comedian.

The University’s association with Leicester City of Sanctuary stretches for several years. Initially this was around individual staff members volunteering but recently this has become more formalised and our connections include:

  • Running their ESOL classes through ELTU. The University helps with premises, training and several staff members volunteer to teach
  • Several members of staff are involved in NEST along with student volunteers from the Law department
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary host events at the University such as their recent AGM
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary members sit on our University of Sanctuary steering group

City of Sanctuary supports a national network of over 100 cities and towns of sanctuary committed to building a culture of welcome for asylum seekers and refugees. Colleen has also hosted several destitute asylum seekers over the last six years and is passionate about the need to reform the asylum process and end destitution and detention of those who seek safety in the UK.