How universities can support Higher Education in Palestine will come under the spotlight as part of University of Leicester Breaking Barriers Refugee Week

Ways to support Higher Education in Palestine will be one of the topics covered by University of Leicester’s events to mark Breaking Barriers Refugee Week.

Running from 1 to 8 March, Refugee Week is a festival of events across the UK that celebrates the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. This year, a number of universities from across the UK have come together to co-ordinate their Refugee Week events, with the hope that this will increase the visibility, reach and impact of these events, and strengthen the ties between institutions.

This year’s programme at the University of Leicester will feature four online public events that delve into the experiences and current issues facing refugees in Higher Education. 

On Monday 4 March, a ‘Citizens of Change Panel Discussion: Refugee Students’ Journeys into Volunteering’ will focus on University of Leicester sanctuary students who have engaged in volunteering to support local refugee-background individuals and communities.

Different Distance Learning initiatives for people from refugee backgrounds will be explored in an event on 5 March entitled ‘Researching Refugeedom 2024’, while students from refugee backgrounds who are looking to apply to a UK university are invited to attend ‘Student Finance and Scholarships for UK Sanctuary Undergraduate Students’ on 7 March.

Leicester’s events for Refugee Week will close with ‘How can UK universities support Higher Education in Palestine?’ on 7 March. Palestinians are one of the world’s longest-serving refugee populations (UNRWA, 2023), and the recent deterioration of conditions in Gaza and the West Bank has had a devastating effect on civilians, infrastructure and the education system. The University of Leicester is investigating a number of options, including possible pathways for Gazan students to complete their studies in the UK, the potential for distance learning opportunities, and supporting refugee academics and students. 

Aleks Palanac, Head of Sanctuary at the University of Leicester, said: “For refugees, Higher Education can be a lifeline, not only giving them a chance to gain knowledge, skills and qualifications to help them progress into employment commensurate with their abilities, but also serving an important role in promoting well-being and development for the individual, their families and their communities.

“We need to come together as a sector and do everything we can to support those who are displaced and those facing conflict, violence and persecution. At this time, the most urgent need is in Palestine, and other areas of need include Sudan, Ukraine and Afghanistan.”

The University of Leicester is part of the University of Sanctuary community, and as such solidarity is at the heart of what it does. The University is committed to working to make Higher Education institutions places of safety, solidarity and empowerment for people seeking sanctuary.

Over the past few years, the Universities of Sanctuary movement has been growing in the UK, as an increasing number of universities have started to offer more opportunities (such as scholarships) to students with backgrounds of forced migration. This has been reinforced by the UN’s 15by30 campaign to open up participation to HE to 15% of the world’s refugees by 2030 (building on the current figure of 7%, which sits in stark contrast to the 40% global average for non-refugees).

Full programme of events: