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Scottish Universities of Sanctuary Get-Together in Edinburgh

23 practitioners with interest in enabling refugees’ access to Higher Education in Scotland met in Edinburgh last Monday, the 3rd of June, in a get-together described by an attendee as ‘a wonderful balance of information sharing and positivity (and food!!).’

Hosted by Edinburgh Global and facilitated by City of Sanctuary with help from friends from Scottish Guardianship Service, Scottish Refugee Council and Edinburgh Global, the meeting brought together participants from 7 Scottish Universities, and from refugee sector organisations.

The meeting opened with information on the Universities of Sanctuary network, award and resources. We then heard from Sarah Hoey of Edinburgh Global and Rebecca Sweetman of St Andrews on how their Universities coordinate support for displaced and at-risk scholars via their internal cross-departmental networks. The bulk of the meeting however was practitioners simply talking to each other – breakaway discussion groups on topics identified, ‘open space’ style, on the day.


The resulting varied conversation topics included:

  • speaking with one voice’ by exploring current networks, and building a Scotland-wide network of Higher Education professionals;
  • sharing resources;
  • creating networks within universities;
  • involving refugee voices;
  • using the participation of the student body in a sustainable way;
  • pathways and the applicant journey (particularly for unaccompanied young people), and
  • getting it right from a legal perspective

The meeting was vividly described by  Sophie Johnstone of the University of Aberdeen,  in her LinkedIn post straight after the event:

“Today I was excited to spend a bit of time in Edinburgh, representing the University of Aberdeen at what will hopefully become the first of many gatherings of its kind..! Hosted by the University of Edinburgh, representatives from a number of Scottish higher education institutions and refugee support organisations enjoyed an informal meet up, where we were able to share ideas and discuss good practice in the mission to make higher education a more welcoming and accessible environment for displaced people. A key take-away for me was gaining fresh insight into how we can establish functional networks across our institutions, and how we can work to ensure that the refugee voice is sought after and heard at every single stage of policy and decision-making. Meeting face to face with other like-minded people and simply talking always feels like such a simple but vital first step in creating effective, long-lasting change… Definitely watch this space”

What next?

Do watch this space, as Steph McKendry, Widening Access Manager at the University of Strathclyde has offered to host the next Scottish Universities of Sanctuary Get-Together in Glasgow in the Autumn.

If interested in attending, or having a conversation about Universities of Sanctuary, get in touch with the City of Sanctuary Scotland Coordinator, Gün Orgun, at [email protected]