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How Daniel has used his lived experience to guide universities

My name is Daniel Mutanda, and I am based in Exeter. I work full-time as a researcher at the University of Exeter under a School for Public Health Research fellowship.

I became involved with City of Sanctuary’s work with universities in 2019. I would generally contribute to the strategic direction of the network, which would lead to me becoming involved in appraisal panels for Universities that apply to become awarded. I then joined the steering group which means I help guide the direction of City of Sanctuary’s work with universities.

City of Sanctuary has allowed me to use my own experiences of seeking sanctuary to help others. I know that higher education can be a difficult area to navigate, but the Universities of Sanctuary network means those in charge of higher education institutions hear directly from people who have lived experience of the asylum system. When our voices are heard, action is taken.

When I was applying for university, there was little information on what my options were as I had no access to student finance. No one at my sixth form college knew that sanctuary scholarships existed, so after seeking help from the careers advisor I knew I would have to do my own research. The few scholarships that existed were limited in what they could offer and this led to selecting a place that was close to home (as things like housing costs at that time weren’t widely covered in scholarships). A similar sense of limited knowledge of what options are available to me would continue throughout my studies but thankfully I was able to navigate these barriers with the support of designated members of staff at my university. This informs my efforts to bring together university staff, student groups, and sanctuary scholars, to explore what is possible with our resources and share best practices for how to break barriers to higher education.

I am now working to grow and strengthen the Universities of Sanctuary network, ensuring more universities across the UK are meaningfully engaging with our work to build welcome. I am particularly interested in ensuring that marginalised voices are heard and included in all our efforts.

Going forward I hope to continue conducting research, particularly on human flourishing, sustainable development, and planetary health. I hope to build and strengthen a network for sanctuary scholars, people who are current or former students from sanctuary-seeking backgrounds. I also hope to continue working in advocacy, particularly on initiatives such as 15by30 which seeks to get 15% of refugees into higher education by 2030.