university of sanctuary
  • Aston University joins a network of higher education institutions working to support refugees and asylum seekers
  • Universities of Sanctuary recognises and celebrates good practice
  • The University demonstrated commitment to engaging and supporting those seeking sanctuary.

Aston University has been awarded University of Sanctuary status, joining a network of higher education institutions across the United Kingdom working to develop support for those displaced by humanitarian crises.

Universities of Sanctuary is an initiative to recognise and celebrate the good practice of institutions welcoming people seeking sanctuary through facilitated access to higher education, supporting local refugee communities and taking an active role in learning about the issues and obstacles faced by this group in pursuing university-level education.

The award of University of Sanctuary status comes after a rigorous assessment process during which Aston University demonstrated its commitment to engaging and supporting those seeking sanctuary in a number of ways.

This included its Ernest Edward Scholarship scheme for asylum seekers or those who have been granted a form of limited permission to stay in the UK following an unsuccessful asylum application and who are therefore prevented from accessing student finance.

The University also showed commitment to taking steps to minimise the impact that changes in government legislation has for forced migrants on the experience of applying for and attending university through the research undertaken in its Centre for Migration and Forced Displacement and Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship.

In addition, the University Support Services team provides support to refugee and asylum seeker members of the University community and Aston University’s students demonstrate their own commitment through projects organised by the Enactus team, a student-led social enterprise which creates community development initiatives to tackle issues faced by society.

The next steps for the University are to develop a three-year development action plan and to work more closely with the city of Birmingham as a City of Sanctuary.

Youssef Alhaj is an Ernest Edward Scholar at Aston University, studying for an MSc in mechanical engineering. He said:

“Growing up in Lebanon then being an asylum seeker in the UK, my life was faded, and this scholarship has brought the colours back. Now I can finally visualize my future and decide how to live my life. This scholarship has changed my life from the day I heard that my application was successful. I am so grateful to the University and all the members who put their effort and trust in me.

“Now I am studying a postgraduate degree in mechanical engineering, and I am doing great work at Aston University because it offered me the thing I really love. I hope to become a master engineer specializing in renewables since I believe that the future is green energy, sustainable and renewable energy.

“Being offered the Earnest Edward Scholarship removed my financial burden. I hope to achieve my future goals to give back to the community and make everyone proud of me.”

Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, said:

“We are delighted to be recognised as a University of Sanctuary.

“Aston University is committed to engaging and supporting those seeking sanctuary through its efforts to increase understanding of the issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees, providing a welcoming environment for sanctuary students and working with individuals and communities beyond the campus to promote the principles of sanctuary.”

David Brown, Chair of Birmingham City of Sanctuary, said:

“Congratulations to Aston University on achieving University of Sanctuary status.

“We in Birmingham City of Sanctuary look forward to working with colleagues at the University to welcome and support people seeking sanctuary, and to help them achieve their full potential.”

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2022 Aston University was ranked in the top 25 of the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Rebecca Hume, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44)7557 745416 or email:

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