Oxford as a Community of Sanctuary
The University of Oxford is committed to being a place of welcome for people who have been forcibly displaced around the world, and supports students and academics who have been forced to flee conflict or persecution.
Oxford University, colleges and wider city has a long-standing history of supporting people with lived experience of displacement, dating back to welcoming refugee academics during the Second World War up to the most recent support provided to students and academics affected by the war in Ukraine.
The University's dedicated Refugee Studies Centre was established in 1982 and undertakes research, teaching, and outreach relating to all aspects of forced displacement.
Oxford has received University of Sanctuary status, and is proud to have signed the City of Sanctuary Organisation Pledge.
Professor Alexander Betts talks about Oxford's University of Sanctuary status...
Establishing Oxford as a Community of Sanctuary
Oxford's colleges of Sanctuary
Several colleges have a long history of supporting displaced scholars, including through collaboration with the Community for At-Risk Academics. Oxford’s Mansfield and Somerville Colleges were both awarded College of Sanctuary status in 2021, having established Sanctuary Scholarships offering fully funded places for postgraduate study. Since then, the central University and colleges have worked together to increase the number of full scholarships available to graduate students from displacement backgrounds.
In collaboration with Asylum Welcome and Oxford City Council, the University hosted a Sanctuary Fair in May 2023 at Oxford Town Hall.
The event was a free and open to all to connect people from displacement backgrounds, students, and the local community. It featured panels on themes such as ‘why sanctuary matters?’, the ‘current politics of sanctuary in the UK’, and ‘improving refugees’ access to higher education’, as well as a range of stalls showcasing projects, programmes, and campaigns supporting refugees and displaced people within the City of Oxford and Oxfordshire.
Oxford's Sanctuary Community
Scholarships and support
The University will deliver an integrated programme of scholarships and support for students from displacement backgrounds under its ‘Oxford Sanctuary Community’. This will provide pre-arrival and on-course support, a regular programme of social and cultural events, and a dedicated point of contact for all self-identifying members of the community.
The University offers a range of scholarships and a cohort support programme for students from displacement backgrounds.
With thanks to the generous support of funding partners across the University and colleges, as well as support from student members, the University has been able to offer scholarships to refugees and other forced migrants since 2016.
In 2022, the University offered graduate scholarships to students from displacement backgrounds as part of its wider Academic Futures programme. The Refugee Academic Futures scheme has been piloted during the 2022-23 academic year and included a dedicated contact person and cohort support programme available to all students within the collegiate University, who self-identify as having a displacement background.
Support for Ukraine
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the University welcomed 26 graduate students from Ukraine who were affected by the crisis to join our graduate community in 2022-23. Further scholarships have been offered for the 2023-24 academic year.
Further scholarships for students from displacement backgrounds have been confirmed for 2023-24 (and beyond), for instance as part of the University’s Africa Oxford Initiative in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, and through the Hope scholarships, in collaboration with the Weidenfeld Hoffmann Trust.
Oxford Student Action for Refugees
We encourage our students to learn about sanctuary and to create an inclusive culture of welcome. As part of this, the University is supporting the Oxford branch of Student Action for Refugees in recruiting new members for the 2023-24 academic year.
Refugee-Led Research Hub in Nairobi
With a physical base in Nairobi, the Refugee-Led Research Hub aims to support aspiring researchers from displacement backgrounds to become research leaders. It strives to go beyond ‘participation’ by enabling people with lived experience of displacement to lead at every stage of the research process. The Hub office was established at the British Institute in Eastern Africa premises in November 2021 to deliver academic programmes. These include a 3-month online course in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies available free of charge to learners from displacement backgrounds around the world, and a range of graduate access support schemes. It also supports and funds a range of refugee-led research projects on themes relating to forced displacement.
A film crew comprising film-makers with displacement backgrounds made a short film summarising the Refugee-Led Research Festival.
Refugee Studies Centre
Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre undertakes research, teaching, and outreach relating to all aspects of forced displacement.
The Centre offers an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and a range of short courses which often include bursaries for learners from displacement backgrounds. The Centre also published Forced Migration Review which is the leading practitioner-oriented publication in the world focusing on forced displacement, published in several languages.
The research of the Centre seeks to influence both policy and practice. Beyond this work, there is a wide range of other specialist research on forced displacement taking place across the University, including at the Centre for Migration, Policy, and Society.
For more information about the Oxford Sanctuary Community or Sanctuary Fair, please contact Myroslava.Hartmond@qeh.ox.ac.uk