University of Sanctuary


Winchester: The South's first University of Sanctuary

In 2018, The University of Winchester received a 'University of Sanctuary' Award from UK charity City of Sanctuary in recognition of its initiatives to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and support them in Higher Education study. University of Sanctuary awards recognise and celebrate organisations' commitment to providing a welcome to asylum seekers and refugees and seeking to foster a culture of awareness and inclusivity. Winchester was the first university in the south of England to become of University of Sanctuary, and we are represented on the national steering group that produced the Universities of Sanctuary resource pack.

Watch the award ceremony video:

The University of Sanctuary Network

Formerly the Forced Migration Network, the University of Sanctuary Network is a diverse group of University staff and students and external practitioners engaged in knowledge exchange, research, teaching, outreach and support relating to asylum seekers and refugees. Academic members come from disciplines across our faculties, including Performing Arts, Education, Geography, Psychology, Law and Peace & Reconciliation, as well as Widening Participation and Outreach, the University Library, Volunteering, and Research & Knowledge Exchange. External members include the Wessex Global Health Network, and we work closely with the Rural Refugees Network. We are members of the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) Fellowship programme, which helps academics in immediate danger and those forced into exile. For further links and partnerships, see below.

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News and events

Refugee Week logo with multi-coloured dots and black letters

We have a vibrant programme lined up for Refugee Week 2024. Find out more and how you can be part of it.

For all our other forthcoming and most recent events, explore our Latest news and events page.

For news and events from 2021 and earlier, visit our Recent news and events page.

Background image: a refugee camp with 14,000 refugees waiting for aid. Image: Dutch Aid Organisations Collective (Flickr) 


UoSN activities

Our aims, objectives and plans

The University of Winchester is a community committed to making a difference, passionate about seeing individuals and communities flourish. Over the last decade we have built up considerable experience and expertise in providing access and support for students who are forced migrants, as well as establishing active collaborations with local and national agencies who work with refugees and people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Learn, Embed, Share

The university of Santuary Network is a natural extension and embodiment of this work. Our mission is to follow the key principles of Cities of Sanctuary ‘Learn, Embed, Share’; our 3-year Action Plan is organised around these three principles.

Read the Univ of Winchester Universities of Sanctuary 3-year plan Oct 2021

We will:

  • Learn from the experience and knowledge of forced migrants, our partners in the community and in the HE sector
  • Embed our learning and experience across the activities of the Network, including in our teaching, research, knowledge exchange and outreach
  • Share our expertise and experience within the membership of the Network and to others across the University and the wider national and global HE community as well as the general public

Widening Participation and Outreach

The University has been working closely with partner organisations and volunteers to establish the ‘Winchester City of Sanctuary’, having hosted preliminary meetings and contributed to the development of governance documents. A key strand of activity identified within the City of Sanctuary-themed areas of work revolves around refugee education and ‘Schools of Sanctuary’. The University will be actively leading on this.

Summer School

We host an annual Asylum Seekers and Refugees Summer School for young asylum seekers and forced migrants. This 3-day residential experience aims to provide information and support with educational progression and success, as well as an enjoyable social experience. Participants work with current Winchester students, including students who are forced migrants, as well as staff from a range of disciplines. 

Most participants are unaccompanied asylum seekers with limited English skills and who come to us through contacts with local Children's Services departments. The residential provides an insight into higher education through taster sessions and focusses on the future, exploring their hopes and dreams through the creative arts.

The participants get to meet our Sanctuary Scholars, hear their stories and find out how they overcame the many obstacles forced migrants face in reaching higher education. See below for details of the 2019 Summer School. For information on the latest Summer School, see below under News and Events.

Family Fun Days

We organise annual Fun Days for Syrian families, in partnership with the Rural Refugee Network and timed to coincide with national Refugee Week.

Language tuition

The University will be hosting free ESOL classes at the University's West Downs Centre every Wednesday afternoon. The sessions are delivered by a local ESOL tutor in partnership with the newly established ‘Winchester City of Sanctuary’. The 10-week course is open to all but primarily targeted at local refugees and asylum seekers. Staff volunteers also offer English language tuition for Syrian families settled in Winchester. 

Sanctuary Awards programme

In 2010, Winchester was one of the first universities in the UK to offer financial support for students seeking sanctuary in the UK to undertake a degree course. Winchester's Sanctuary Award waives tuition fees and offers a bursary of £5000 a year to support the costs of study. The Award is offered to two new students each year. 

Find out more about our Sanctuary Awards

"The University of Winchester Sanctuary Award changed my life": Listen to the experiences of our Sanctuary Awardees.

Student Action for Refugees

The Student Union has a student-led 'Action for Refugees' group that works closely with the University’s Forced Migration Network and other local organisations, including volunteering with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group. In October 2021, the group is (re)launching following the return to campus with a free student film screening of The Good Lie, starring Reese Witherspoon, in the new West Downs Centre auditorium. The event seeks to raise awareness of the plight of those facing forced migration and increase student membership. The group will then be planning a series of events and activities throughout the year, including fundraising, awareness-raising and volunteering.

Access to Higher Education

In November 2019, the University of Winchester joined other UK universities in a new commitment to increase access to Higher Education for refugees and asylum seekers.

Read the full press release

Find out more about our Widening Participation

Research and Knowledge Exchange


University of Sanctuary Network conferences are timed to coincide with World Refugee Week. They are aimed at schools, colleges and universities. The inaugural UoSN conference took place on 21 June 2023 and focussed on the Refugee Week 2023 theme of Compassion; the 2024 conference will revolve around the WRF24 theme of Our Home.

Helping mental health service providers to support Ukrainian refugees

An interdisciplinary academic team of University of Sanctuary Network members have received funding from the University's Research & Innovation team for a participatory project aiming to help mental health service providers to support Ukrainian refugees. The project will generate a set of recommendations and the project team will host an event to share their findings; format and timings TBC.

Improving teaching to improve refugee children education

European Early Childhood education (EC) services and schools have to develop deeper knowledge of the complex needs of refugee pupils. Research emphasises that a holistic educational approach can ensure effective enrolment and transition of refugee youth, and that teachers play a key role in implementing it. However, this poses a professional challenge to teachers, as Refugee Education cannot be considered just as a variation of the usual intercultural education programmes. Consequently, both future and in-service teachers need to receive specific training and continual professional development to cope with the new challenges involved in Refugee Education.

Stemming from well-grounded experiences developed in countries with a long-standing tradition on Refugee Education, this project aims to design, implement and disseminate an effective transnational training programme on Refugee Education addressed to pre-service and in-service teachers. The international consortium is made up of five partners from Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and the UK.

Led by Dr Wayne Veck, Julie Wharton and Dr Louise Pagden, and supported by Erasmus+ funding.

Read the full report Improving teaching to improve refugee children education - An overview of refugee education in Europe

Religion and Migration

Since 2016, in partnership with the European Council of Religious Leaders, the Winchester Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace has been carrying out a project examining multi-religious approaches to integration. The project is designed to test anecdotal assumptions that in some circumstances there are tangible benefits to faith-based organisations and religious communities working together on integration projects and initiatives. It also examined the benefit of multi-religious participation host communities.

Dr Majbritt Lyck-Bowen and Prof. Mark Owen have published an article detailing the results of the first phase of the project: Lyck-Bowen, Majbritt & Owen, Mark (2018) A multi-religious response to the migrant crisis in Europe: A preliminary examination of potential benefits of multi-religious cooperation on the integration of migrants, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 45:1, 21-41.

Exploring the role of Language Cafés in the integration of forced migrants across Europe.

A research project by Dr Majbritt Lyck-Bowen from the Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace and Department of Social Sciences.

Recent projects

The Rwanda Diaspora Youth Partnership Programma

The Rwanda Diaspora Youth Partnership Programme, launched on 1 October 2019 and now completed, was a one-year project exploring how young second-generation Rwandans in the UK might support young people in Rwanda to generate social enterprise and help build a better future for Rwanda. The project was led by Dr Jen Dickinson and Prof. Wayne Veck.

Evaluating the contribution of Diasporic Mentoring Networks (DMNs) for post-displacement youth entrepreneurship

The 1994 Rwandan genocide and subsequent forced displacement of two million refugees generated ongoing economic challenges for Rwanda’s now-burgeoning youth population. However, the human capital embedded in displaced diasporic communities could help address this challenge by generating transnational entrepreneurial investments in locally strategic economic areas.

Working with a Rwandan partner and a UK diaspora partner, this project evaluates whether the support and development of DMNs connecting young Rwandan entrepreneurs to the Rwanda diaspora in the UK can contribute to the creation of high-value ‘opportunity’ entrepreneurial ventures, thereby generating further youth employment and contributing to economic growth. Led by Dr Jen Dickinson and Prof. Wayne Veck.

The Boat

A high-profile recent project is The Boat. Designed to engage young minds on the difficult subject of immigration via an illustrated storybook accompanied by a set of teaching resources, this Arts Council England-funded project was a collaboration between the University's Prof. Andrew Melrose (Creative Writing) and Jonathan Rooke (Education), illustrator Stephanie Morris and a number of primary schools.

Visit the The Boat website


Related research interests

Members of the Network also have the following related research interests:

  • Refugees and social work
  • Diaspora strategies
  • Transnational citizenship
  • Skilled mobilities
  • South-South migration
  • Peace and reconciliation
  • Approaches to integration
  • Refugee education
  • Mobility and belonging
  • Social inclusion
  • Representation of religious minority groups; the status of women in religious minority groups
  • Borders and boundaries in conflict areas
  • History of migration

Postgraduate research

  • Deborah Falconer: Asylum Seeker and Refugee Learners and the Education of Pre-service Teachers: Towards a pedagogy of listening
  • Randa Najjar: Refugee families, schools and cultures of dialogue
  • Jessica Kempner: Refugee engagement with Holocaust education: an exploration
  • Julie Wharton: Children seeking sanctuary and the welcoming teacher: inclusive relationships and Martin Buber's philosophy of dialogue
  • Laura Watson: Rethinking Holocaust Education

Undergraduate research

  • Isabel Smythe: Media representations of asylum seekers. In collaboration with the Rural Refugee Network.


Forced displacement and the multitude of social, cultural, economic, psychological and educational issues ensuing from it are embedded in our curriculum. Examples are the modules 'Displaced: Forced migration and refugees today' in our Value Studies programme, and 'Education, inclusion and refugees', part of our Education Studies degree.

Links and partnerships

Local and regional

Hampshire Universities Together (HUT)

HUT is a collaboration between the four Hampshire universities (Winchester, Solent, Southampton and Portsmouth) on the important role of HE institutions in regional civic engagement. With all three cities being Cities of Sanctuary and the four HEIs having University of Sanctuary status, the Sanctuary element is one of the HUT's main activity strands.

Winchester City of Sanctuary

Wessex Global Health Network, Refugee Health Group

City of Sanctuary Southampton

Bournemouth and Poole City of Sanctuary

British Red Cross (Portsmouth and Southampton)

Cities of Sanctuary South West

Rural Refugee Network


Universities of Sanctuary

CARA (Council for At-Risk Academics)

Refugee Support Network

Useful links

Health Education England webinar on modern slavery

University of Oxford Migration Observatory

Birmingham University Institute for Research Into Super-diversity (IRIS)