Blog: STAR and City of Sanctuary lead pledges from UK Universities to improve access for refugee students for World Action to Higher Education Day and the Global Refugee Forum

25/11/2019 | News

With kind thanks to Christopher Smart, Access to University Coordinator at STAR for contributing this blog.

Around the world universities are signing a global statement  of support for refugee access to higher education for World Access to Higher Education Day. This is in advance of the Global Refugee Forum 2019 where UK universities are pledging to continue and expand their work for refugee student access to higher education led by STAR and City of Sanctuary.

In the UK and globally people seeking refugee protection are at a huge disadvantage when accessing higher education. Globally only 3% of eligible refugees have access to university compared to 37% of people worldwide. In the UK and around the world universities are stepping up to change this. In the UK over 70 universities have programmes of scholarships and bursaries to allow refugees and asylum seekers to study. Now 13 institutions are recognised as Universities of Sanctuary, promoting a culture of welcome and inclusion on campus towards people seeking sanctuary, with many more institutions applying to be recognised.

The UK pledge which already has many universities and organisations committed will be unveiled on World Access to Higher Education Day (the 26th November) alongside the global statement  of support coordinated by UNHCR. The pledge commits organisations and universities to continue and expand their work on access to higher education for people seeking refugee protection. The pledges will be submitted to the first Global Refugee Forum in December 2019 set up to monitor the commitments signed by states in the 2018 Global Compact for Refugees.

The pledge reads

‘Universal education and lifelong learning are a basic human right for all people, but one which is currently being denied to many of the millions of people forcibly displaced from their homes and seeking sanctuary elsewhere.



We, as Higher Education Institutions and related organisations in the UK, pledge to uphold and develop our commitments towards increasing access to Higher Education for people seeking sanctuary, as well as to building a culture of welcome in the UK and beyond.





We are committed to working alongside states and the wider global humanitarian community to deliver the promise of the Global Compact on Refugees including working towards a goal where 15% of the world’s refugees have access to higher education by 2030. As part of our commitment we will continue to offer, and to develop, sanctuary scholarships and other innovative routes for improving access.’

Universities who have signed the pledge include Birkbeck University of London, the University of Bradford, Cardiff Metropolitan University, De Montfort University, the University of East Anglia, the University of Hull, the University of Leicester, the University of Lincoln, the University of Liverpool, Kingston University, the University of Manchester, the University of Sussex, the University of Warwick, the University of Winchester, York St John University and the University of York. There is still time to encourage more universities to commit to this important goal. The deadline for pledges is the 30th November.

In the UK Student Action for Refugees and City of Sanctuary are among many organisations working to change refugee access to higher education. They do this in a number of ways:

  • Universities can apply to be recognised as a University of Sanctuary: a kitemark to celebrate the culture of welcome practiced at an institution.
  • Universities can receive dedicated support and advice in developing and maintaining scholarship programmes for refugees and asylum seekers from STAR.
  • STAR also promotes all of the scholarship programmes and other relevant support provided on its website which was accessed by over 20,000 people last year.
  • Universities of Sanctuary run a jiscmail service for UK Sanctuary scholarship providers.
  • STAR supports student campaigning at universities to help open up institutions to refugee students through scholarships, bursaries and access courses.
  • STAR and Universities of Sanctuary help to connect a network of universities committed to refugee access to higher education through best practice sharing at conferences, meetings, advocacy and support networks.

For more information and to get involved you can get in touch with or

For More Information Visit:

Universities of Sanctuary:


Please do tweet about this using hashtag #UniversitiesSayWelcome and tagging @STARnational and@uniofsanctuary.

You can also use #equalaccesstoHE #universityofsanctuary and #refugeeforum .

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