Institutional Engagement with Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Freya Stancliffe supervised by Mel Prideaux and Sarah Verbickas
About the student researcher
I’m Freya and I’m in my final year studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. I’m really happy I was able to contribute research towards strengthening and broadening the University support for and engagement with refugee and asylum seeker background students, staff and local communities. Volunteering in Calais and through Student Action for Refugees (STAR) in Leeds, I’ve had an insight into the barriers and difficulties people face whilst seeking safety and a place to call home. It’s become something I’m particularly passionate about. Access to Higher Education can be a huge part of building a financially stable and personally fulfilling future in the UK. Reducing barriers to Higher Education through new ‘sanctuary’ initiatives is therefore vitally important, and also broadens the University’s chances to benefit from the skills and knowledge that people with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences can bring.
The project was an initial short term research task, feeding into a wider collaborative effort at the University of Leeds to achieve ‘University of Sanctuary’ status. This is an award from the national ‘City of Sanctuary’ charity recognising Higher Education Institutions that are going above and beyond to create a culture of welcome and support for displaced individuals. Whilst many committed staff across schools and services are working hard on sanctuary initiatives, the university is uniquely placed in terms of geography and resources to provide increased, mutually beneficial engagement. The process of achieving status would bring well deserved recognition to the many successful initiatives already being run in this vein and create exciting opportunities to strengthen our support through new initiatives and projects.
My research produced a report to support this goal with an overview of areas of strength, an assessment of areas to improve, and proposals for how this could be achieved. This was by recognising examples of best practice at other Universities of Sanctuary and considering how their initiatives might be adapted to suit the specific context of the University of Leeds. The research carried out was web and literature based, in addition to semi-structured interviews with staff members engaged in sanctuary initiatives or appropriately placed to embed them at the university. The report will inform actionable plans that bring us closer to achieving University of Sanctuary status.