Published on 18/05/2023
Share this Article:
University of Sanctuary group photo
From L to R: Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities; Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Aston University; 
David Brown, Chair of Birmingham City of Sanctuary committee.
  • The Vice-Chancellor hosted an event for all those who had helped to achieve University of Sanctuary status
  • Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities, made a special presentation
  • Special guests also included poet Loraine Masiya Mponela and recipients of Aston University sanctuary scholarships.

Aston University officially celebrated becoming a University of Sanctuary with an event held on 16 May for all those who contributed to achieving this status.

The University was awarded University of Sanctuary status in December 2022, joining a network of higher education institutions across the UK working to develop support for those displaced by humanitarian crises.

The celebration was hosted by Aston University Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Aleks Subic. Guests included Councillor John Cotton, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities, who made a special award presentation. 

The event programme also included a performance by poet Loraine Masiya Mponela, who herself was an asylum seeker and conversations with recipients of Ernest Edward Scholarships, a sanctuary scholarship scheme for students who have sought refuge in the UK. The scheme was set up by Aston University in 2022 due to a generous donation by prominent businessperson Matthew Crummack.

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.

Professor Aleks Subic, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, said: “I am delighted to have had this opportunity to host a celebration event to thank everyone who has helped us achieve the University of Sanctuary status. 

“Aston University is committed to supporting people seeking sanctuary through its efforts to deepen our 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 values and principles of sanctuary.  

“Being a University of Sanctuary is key to our Civic Agreement: our commitment to make Birmingham a better place for everyone who lives, works, and studies here. Birmingham."

Youssef Alhaj Mousa, Ernest Edward Scholar, said: “Growing up in Lebanon then being an asylum seeker in the UK, my life was faded, and this scholarship have brought the colours back. Now I can finally visualize my future and decide how to live my life. This scholarship has changed my life since the day I heard that my application was successful. I am so grateful for the university and all the scholarship team who put their effort and trust in me.  

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

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

Councillor John Cotton, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities, said: “Birmingham is proud to be a City of Sanctuary, with its long history of offering refuge to those fleeing war, persecution and tyranny around the globe.  In these troubled times, standing up for the principles of sanctuary and refuge is more important than ever.  

“I’m delighted that Aston University has joined the family of Universities of Sanctuary and is one of the many important institutions in our city that actively extends the hand of friendship to those seeking refuge and the chance to rebuild their lives here in Birmingham.”


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:


Sue Smith,
Head of Press and Communications


Sam Cook,
Press and Communications Manager


Nicola Jones,
Press and Communications Manager


Helen Tunnicliffe,
Press and Communications Manager


Alternatively, email