Update on our University of Sanctuary initiatives

Harriet Sheridan
Tuesday 13 April 2021

Over the past year and a half, the University of St Andrews has continued to strengthen our support for Sanctuary students and scholars at St Andrews and to work closely with others in the Sanctuary network to enhance best practice across the UK HE sector.

We celebrated our award as a University of Sanctuary at an event in St Andrews in March 2020, shortly before Covid lockdown, which brought together students, staff, our local community and representatives from a number of other charities and organisations who had supported our Sanctuary application. As well as marking the award, the event allowed us to engage with local community groups about the City of Sanctuary initiative, and while these discussions were paused during lockdown, we are committed to continuing this dialogue in 2021.

The University awarded its first dedicated Sanctuary Scholarships for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students in summer 2020, with students starting at St Andrews in September 2020. UG, PGT and PGR scholarships for 2021 entry are open until  29 April 2021, and we continue to focus on supporting eligible candidates to apply.

A virtual welcome session was arranged for the first Sanctuary Scholars in September 2020, which covered academic topics, student experience and practical issues around moving to and living in St Andrews. Academic and professional staff contributed to the session, as well as representatives from the student society, Refugee Action St Andrews (RASA). We have established a direct contact for students in the Global Office, and colleagues are available for appointments during dedicated consultation hours. In February 2021, a new student Diversity intern joined the Global Office to focus on the enhancement of our specific induction and resources for Sanctuary Scholars.

Over the past year, we have developed our Sanctuary webpages to provide information on scholarships, initiatives and events, and to showcase some of the varied research and teaching at St Andrews which focuses on forced migration. We also ran a series of social media posts highlighting forced migration research and teaching during Refugee Week. Internally at the University, we actively promote Sanctuary initiatives through our monthly Global Office newsletter which is disseminated widely around the community. We have also established a staff roadshow, which provides academic Schools and Professional Service Units with an introduction to the Universities of Sanctuary initiative.

We continue to engage actively with the Scottish and UK Sanctuary networks and to support other institutions applying for Sanctuary status. We have presented sessions on becoming a University of Sanctuary, and on internal co-ordination of Sanctuary initiatives, at various network events, and we continue to offer advice and support to other universities starting the process now. We have shared the Terms of Reference for our effective Sanctuary Operations Group with colleagues across the UK who are interested in joining up and coordinating Sanctuary work more effectively across their institutions.

We continue to work closely with the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) and hope to welcome future Cara Fellows to St Andrews. In addition, two St Andrews academics have been mentoring displaced academic colleagues from Syria as part of Cara’s Syria programme. Professor Rebecca Sweetman is working with groups of archaeologists, architects and lawyers on two projects: one on the Case of the Idlib Museum and the other on the Reconstructed heritage of Aleppo, while Dr Fiona McCallum Guiney is involved with a project on the impact of the Syrian conflict on Syria’s Christian communities. Each team is working with their mentors and Cara who provide online seminars, to undertake the research and produce an article for publication. The teams have been supported by the University’s Ethics committee and Library and are offered a virtual Visiting Scholar status to support access to resources required for their research.

We look forward to welcoming the next cohort of Sanctuary Scholars in September and working with students, colleagues, community members and external organisations to build on the work we have achieved as a University of Sanctuary.

If you have have any questions or comments about our University of Sanctuary initiatives, we encourage you to reach out to [email protected].

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