University welcomes refugee and asylum seeker scholars

Sanctuary scholars attend welcome event at the University of Leicester

Refugees and asylum seekers who have been awarded scholarships to study at the University of Leicester received a warm welcome at a special event to celebrate their achievement.

The event, on Friday, was hosted by the University of Leicester Sanctuary Seekers’ Unit, which provides scholarships for those who are seeking sanctuary. Speakers included local MP, Jon Ashworth, and the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor, Dr Liz Jones.

The University of Leicester currently offers four campus-based scholarships alongside several distance learning scholarships. The Scholarships are awarded to applicants who can demonstrate that they have the ability to succeed academically, but who face barriers to that success. They are funded by Santander and include a tuition fee waiver and a support package that is tailored to individual circumstance.

The welcome event was hosted by Phil Horspool, Director of the University’s English Language Teaching Unit and Chair of the University of Sanctuary Steering Group, who described the importance of making Higher Education accessible to all based on merit alone. He explained that the University of Leicester became a University of Sanctuary in 2018, meaning that it understands the needs of refugees and asylum seekers and it is committed to supporting them fully in order to help them achieve their potential.

Dr Liz Jones, Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Leicester congratulated the scholars on their achievement before presenting them with medals to celebrate their success. In her address to the scholars, she said: 

"I would like to pay tribute to the Scholars here today for the courage you have shown in the face of tremendous adversity. You both inspire and humble us.  As we strive to create a more fair and humane society, the values of compassion, of justice, of inclusion and equality enrich our university and mark our commitment to create a better world.

I am proud that we are the only university with a dedicated sanctuary seekers unit, that we are a University of Sanctuary and that we are the first and possibly only university that offers distance learning sanctuary scholarships."

Jon Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, also delivered an impassioned speech about breaking down barriers. Speaking after the event, Mr Ashworth said: 

“Refugees and asylum seekers often face significant barriers to accessing Higher Education so it’s fantastic to see the level of support and variety of scholarships available at the University of Leicester. It’s been a privilege to hear about the genuinely life-changing impact that these scholarships are having on people who have faced some of life’s biggest challenges, and to see how the University is helping them to achieve their potential and maximise their contribution to society.”

PhD scholar, Vimbai Mamombe, concluded the speeches with a powerful address to her fellow scholars. Speaking about the importance of overcoming adversity, she said:

“I want to thank my fellow students, who are the beneficiaries of this wonderful programme, for their continued commitment to their work. Your background and experiences, if they are in any way like mine, can never be underscored. But being here and continuing your studies is a sign of resilience and commitment because the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees are, at times, nothing short of horrific. All I can say is, let’s use wisely this opportunity that we have been afforded, to make the best of ourselves, our families, the University of Leicester, the community and indeed the various nations represented here. Let’s develop our careers and areas of expertise to the furthest extent possible as we continue to defy our past.”