University of Sanctuary award for Reading
27 June 2023
The University of Reading has been recognised as a University of Sanctuary, following a successful appraisal meeting with the national co-ordinators of the scheme in June 2023.
The announcement follows Refugee Week (19-25 June), which was celebrated in Reading and across the UK.
The University of Sanctuary Award recognises ‘universities that have gone above and beyond to provide an understanding, compassionate, and safe experience that would enable people seeking sanctuary to thrive and recognise their potential’. A key part of the process is also about community engagement and the fruitful partnerships that can be created between the university and local refugee support organisations, according to University of Sanctuary.
The University first signed the Reading City of Sanctuary pledge in 2017 and established a University of Sanctuary working group in 2020. The working group was set up to coordinate the work across the University and develop initiatives that align with the three core principles of the University of Sanctuary scheme: learn, embed, and share.
Some key highlights of the University’s sanctuary work to date include:
- The Sanctuary Scholarship Scheme, which provides up to 12 funded scholarships for refugee students each year. The University also organises social meet ups for sanctuary students, helping them to settle into life at Reading
- Launching the Sanctuary Coffee Bank in campus cafes for local refugees and sanctuary scholars to access free hot drinks
- Ongoing support for the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) Fellowship scheme and the Cara Syria Programme
- Increased school outreach activity to sanctuary seekers, providing them with more information about university life, admissions and the scholarships scheme
- Community engagement – working with local partners, such as Reading Refugee Support Group, on innovative projects to support refugees in Reading
- Impactful research through the Centre of Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM); also CeLM working with local community groups to support multilingual families
- English language support for local partners, including the Royal Berkshire Hospital, through the International Study and Language Institute
Professor Ruth Evans , who has been leading the University of Sanctuary working group at the University alongside Professor Federico Faloppa, said: “We are so pleased to have achieved this award, recognising the generous Sanctuary Scholarships we offer and innovative teaching, research and community engagement initiatives welcoming sanctuary seekers at the University of Reading. We thank everyone involved for their hard work to achieve the award and look forward to learning from and continuing to embed the culture of welcome across the university in the coming years.”
Maryam Taher, University of Sanctuary co-ordinator, said: "We are delighted that the University of Reading is joining the University of Sanctuary network. The panel recognised the great dedication and commitment of the University community towards supporting those seeking sanctuary, and we are excited for the University's plans and to further build on this positive work."
Refugee Week 2023
The University hosted a variety of activities for Refugee Week 2023. These included:
- A celebration lunch was held on Monday 19 June to thank community researchers for their role in the Transnational Families in Europe project.
- An evening theatre recital on climate justice and displacement, devised and performed by refugees and people with visible/invisible disablement was performed at the Museum of English Rural Life on Wednesday 21 June. The Rank and File Theatre production was part of Reading Climate Festival and Refugee Week.
- The University once again supported the Reading Community Cup through its partnership with Reading based refugee football team, Sanctuary Strikers FC. The tournament was held on Saturday 24 June at the John Madejski Academy.
The University of Sanctuary accreditation will last for three years. Thereafter, the University will be re-appraised to ensure it is still meeting the principles and objectives of the scheme.