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UEA awarded for ongoing commitment to sanctuary seekers

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has been awarded ‘University of Sanctuary’ status by The City of Sanctuary, an organisation which promotes action to support refugees and asylum seekers.

One of only a few universities in the UK and Ireland to receive the accolade to date, UEA is recognised for its ability to offer sanctuary seekers a culture of inclusivity, respect and sanctuary through a broad range of schemes and activities.

These include scholarship programmes, educational activities and events, as well as collaboration with organisations and groups such as UEA Students’ Union, New Routes, The Grange, Norwich International Youth Project and Norwich City of Sanctuary steering committee.

Professor Philip Gilmartin, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Science & International), said: “Supporting asylum seekers and refugees in higher education is incredibly important to UEA, so we are delighted to be recognised as a University of Sanctuary. The scheme enables us to actively demonstrate our ongoing commitment to equal opportunities for access to education. Through our initiatives, we are not only creating wider awareness via educational activities and events, but providing direct support to those in difficult circumstances, who do not have easy access to education.”

One example, is the case of Enana Alassaf, a 26-year-old Syrian refugee who spent much of her undergraduate degree at Aleppo University surrounded by war.

Through UEA’s partnership with the Asfari Foundation, Enana applied for a scholarship. Granted £21,000, she has been able to continue her studies and is currently studying towards a PhD at UEA’s School of Pharmacy.

Enana said: “I was an undergraduate in Pharmacy at Aleppo University. When the war started, I began applying for different scholarships in the UK. The UEA had appealed to me because of the modules they offered and I fell in love with the green fields and lake.

“I had dreamt of doing a PhD for a long time and UEA was very generous to offer me a scholarship to continue doing my degree. The day I heard the news was the happiest day of my life.”

Following the completion of her PhD, Enana plans to continue her research within the pharmaceutical field: “I am super enthusiastic about my work now and the training I am receiving. The facilities, campus and the whole atmosphere make it a perfect place to work and I am so lucky to continue my dream at UEA.”

UEA plans to increase the number of scholarships offered to refugees and asylum seekers for both undergraduates and MA level. As part of the award, it will continue to incorporate a focus on issues impacting sanctuary seekers within its educational activities, including courses designed to learn from sanctuary seekers firsthand.

The role of a University of Sanctuary Liaison Officer is also to be introduced to strengthen the excellent work being done for sanctuary seekers between the University and local partners.