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The University of Stirling is trying to become a ‘University of Sanctuary’

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On 7 October 2021 the Student’s Union passed a motion to support students and facilities to make the university a ‘University of Sanctuary’.

The goal of ‘University of Sanctuary’ is to make higher education more accessible and welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers. 

A key aspect of the ‘sanctuaries’ is that there is an atmosphere of welcoming and acceptance within and beyond the university. 

At the moment, asylum seekers in the UK entering the higher education system are treated as international students which is incredibly expensive. 

The average non-EU student at the University of Stirling for a classroom based degree is £12,140 and lab-based degree is £14,460 for a year. That is not including the cost of accommodation, books or catering. 

In comparison, most asylum seekers live on £5.39 per day, making higher education near impossible. 

A ‘University of Sanctuary’ is an accreditation given to universities who meet a set criteria set by Cities of Sanctuary. There are ten steps to receiving the accreditation, including offering scholarships, a dedicated staff member/team that will be the point of contact for the students and active engagement with the wider community especially with those seeking sanctuary and the local refugee support network, for example Forth Valley Welcome. 

Being a ‘Sanctuary’ means that the university must embed awareness and support into their policies, sustainable activities and procedures so that there is a continuous awareness for students and staff. Awareness should be actively ingrained into modules and curriculums across the university appropriately. 

Photo credit: City of Sanctuary

Who realises these steps to make the goal a reality? The university has a working group which is a coalition of different societies here in the university including Global Justice, Students Action for Refugees (STAR) and Amnesty International. The working group wants everyone across the university to join and help create this plan a reality. 

The working group brought the motion to the university’s general meeting so that the Student’s Union would be able to incorporate it into their goals for the year. To have the support of the Student’s Union helps the working group achieve their goals throughout the year. 

The accreditation of becoming a ‘Sanctuary’ only lasts three years so that the criteria is updated and carried on through the years so that the achievement outlasts the current student population. No university has the award without providing the support and means that is required. 

St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh are the only universities in Scotland that have the accreditation so far. 

The University of Sanctuary working group has a meeting planned, which is welcoming staff and students from every aspect of the university on the 26 November at 4pm in Cottrell’s lecture theatre A4 for those who may be interested in becoming involved. 

Feature photo credit: Susan Hare

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