University of Essex offers new Sanctuary scholarships to Afghan students

  • Date

    Wed 1 Sep 21

University of Sanctuary logo

As part of the University of Essex’s ongoing commitment to providing a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers, and its immediate response to the current crisis in Afghanistan, the University has developed a support programme for Afghan students and academics.

The programme includes six new ‘Sanctuary scholarships’ for Afghan students. These scholarships offer a full fee waiver for undergraduate students - for up to three years - or postgraduate students, plus free University accommodation and £5,000 to support living and study costs.

In 2020, the University was granted University of Sanctuary status, reflecting its long-term commitment to promoting a culture of welcome, safety, and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers.

Professor Lorna Fox O’Mahony, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University of Essex has a long and proud tradition of providing sanctuary for academics and students.

“Being recognised as a University of Sanctuary reflected the incredible work Essex staff and students have carried out over the years to support refugees and asylum seekers. Our commitment to social action, particularly for those who are marginalised or excluded, is a defining feature of the University.

“Along with the rest of the world, students and staff at Essex have watched the crisis unfold in Afghanistan with grave concern, and we want to play our part in offering some of those students fleeing their country the opportunity to benefit from the transformational education we can offer within our supportive Essex community.”

The University’s Human Rights Centre is now working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure that Afghan students can be matched to the Essex scholarships in the midst of the crisis.

The University is also working with the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), who provide a lifeline for academics at-risk, who are facing immediate danger and are in urgent need to be rescued. Essex has offered to fund a fellowship that will host a displaced Afghan scholar for up to three years.

Samira-Caterina Monteleone, President of the University of Essex Students’ Union, said:  "I welcome this initiative to offer a life-changing education. As a Students’ Union we are ready to welcome and support our six new students to the family. I encourage more universities to follow the same model."

Essex has an excellent track record in defending the rights of refugees and protecting vulnerable and marginalised people. The longstanding work of Professor Renos Papadopoulos, Director of the Centre for Trauma, Asylum, and Refugees, has placed refugee care at the heart of Essex, and the Centre for Migration Studies, led by Dr Renee Luthra, supports research and initiatives to improve the lives of refugees. More recently Essex launched a new Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network, co-led by Professor Geoff Gilbert, in partnership with the Office of the UNHCR.

Professor Fox O’Mahony added: “Essex is one of the most international universities in the world. Our student support services are working closely with our current Afghan students to support them during this traumatic time. We look forward to extending this support and offering a warm welcome to our new Sanctuary Scholars from Afghanistan.”

Essex students have been at the heart of the University’s journey to securing Sanctuary status. Through their work within the curriculum and through volunteering, Essex students have demonstrated their passion in advocating and campaigning for the rights of people who are the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our community. This includes working with local organisations such as Refugee Action Colchester, providing English classes and integration assistance. Through Essex’s Human Rights Society, Amnesty International Essex, and Essex Student Action for Refugees, Essex students are making a vital difference on its campuses and in its wider communities, both here in Essex and around the world.

Universities of Sanctuary are part of the UK's City of Sanctuary initiative, which works to ensure our nation is a welcoming place of safety for all.