Cardiff Metropolitan University received a Sanctuary Award for its work to raise awareness of issues faced by asylum seekers and refugees, therefore becoming the first ‘University of Sanctuary’ in Wales.
The award ceremony was hosted at the University’s Llandaff campus on Wednesday (28th November), and was part of the City of Sanctuary Wales & South West Regional Gathering 2018, which focussed on ‘Sharing our Story.’
Sanctuary awards are provided by the network of local groups and City of Sanctuary UK to recognise and celebrate mainstream organisations’ commitment to providing a welcome and inclusivity to asylum seekers and refugees and enabling them to become active participants in the City of Sanctuary network. It is an opportunity to celebrate and share good practice as well as reflect on how practice can be improved.
Natalie Buckland, International Student Support Manager at Cardiff Met, said: “I feel so proud that Cardiff Met has achieved recognition as a University of Sanctuary. From when I began the Sanctuary working group, I was pleasantly surprised by the good work already going on across the University, in both offering support and providing a welcoming environment to asylum seekers and refugees and in raising awareness of related issues and challenges they may face here in Cardiff as well as overseas.
“Our Vice Chancellor is very passionate about Cardiff Met being a university that provides education opportunities for all and on collecting further detail of the existing good practice, I was encouraged to submit an application for a University of Sanctuary Award.”
Over the years, the University has strengthened its relationships with local community organisations by attending conferences and closely working with organisations including The Welsh Refugee Council, Oasis and Displaced People in Action.
Cardiff Met’s STAR (student Action for Refugees) and Amnesty student societies have also been active and have worked together and invited speakers to hold workshops for a wider section of the student population.
“We hope the award will spread the message that Cardiff Met is a warm, welcoming and caring institution which may lead to us seeing more forced migrants have the confidence to continue their education with us.”
The University offers volunteering opportunities within the local community, offers free access to its libraries to anyone in the local community, and has implemented a wide range of courses and support sessions to ensure equal opportunities to access to Higher Education.
Every year, Cardiff Met holds a week-long event in celebration of the cultural diversity of its staff and student body, to enhance cultural awareness and acceptance and to aid integration.
Last year the University also launched the Cardiff Met Sanctuary Award Scholarship – a programme specifically targeting asylum seekers and forced migrants who would otherwise not be in a position to access Higher Education in the UK.
The University also hosted The Sanctuary Games, led jointly by Sport Cardiff, City of Sanctuary and local partners, to engage refugees and asylum seekers from across the UK in competitive sport as a means of creating a network for these groups.
The Sanctuary Awards have been developed in conjunction with schools, universities, arts organisations and others to promote, spread and sustain exemplary practice in welcome and inclusion.
Iona Hannagan Lewis, Chair of the Sanctuary in HE Working Group, and part of the committee who appraised the University’s application said: “As part of the assessment panel, I was really impressed at Cardiff Met’s energy and enthusiasm to make the University a place of welcome for people seeking sanctuary. Great projects like Global Week, the One Pot project, and campaigns by student societies like Amnesty International and Student Action for Refugees have contributed to building the visibility of refugee issues on campus. The panel was pleased to hear of the success of the Sanctuary Scholarship Scheme and is excited to see how this work develops in the future. Warmest congratulations to all involved!”
Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff, Chair of the Board of the University’s Governors, was at the ceremony and said: “It is an honour for University staff and students to be recognised in this way.
“The University has long had a stringent process in place and an open-door policy to secure external funding to support student and staff. Since 2017, we have participated in the international Council for at Risk Academics (CARA) fellowship programme and also jointly with the Students Union, provide scholarships for asylum seekers through the national Student Action for Refugees (STAR) programme.
“Our civic mission and work in widening participation includes delivering IELTS (English language teaching) in the community to refugees, asylum seekers and other disadvantaged individuals via our Widening Access programme as well as supporting some of our second and third year BA (Hons) ELT students to gain invaluable teaching practise through providing free English lessons on campus.
“This year the University introduced a creche on our Cyncoed campus to cater exclusively for the children of these English language learners, which is run by our Early Childhood Studies students.”
Sian Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary added: “As a founding member of Cardiff City of Sanctuary, and a proud Welsh woman, I extend my huge congratulations to Cardiff Met. I am extremely excited to hear about the wonderful work happening within Cardiff Met – the award is so well deserved. On behalf of City of Sanctuary UK I also extend my thanks to all of the members of the appraisal committee who have dedicated time to this process”.
Photo Credits: Polly Thomas and Cardiff Met University