York St John University has achieved University of Sanctuary status in recognition of its work to create a culture of welcome and inclusion for asylum seekers.
The award was given by City of Sanctuary, the organisation which supports people who are seeking sanctuary, who praised the University’s approach to inclusivity.
York St John is one of only six universities in the United Kingdom and the third university in Yorkshire to have received the accolade. The idea of ‘Universities of Sanctuary’ was developed out of the ‘City of Sanctuary’ movement. The purpose is to create a culture of welcome and hospitality at a local level, through promoting understanding, recognition and celebration of the ways in which people seeking sanctuary enrich society, as well as providing opportunities for building closer relationships between local communities and new arrivals.
Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of York St John University, welcomed the achievement:
“This award represents our commitment to inclusivity at all levels and we hope our University of Sanctuary status will serve as a beacon of hope in the community, the City of York and beyond. We are immensely proud that York St John University has been recognised as a place where anyone can feel safe, welcome and able to pursue their right to education.”
Mike Calvert, Social Innovation Developer, and Emma Taylor, Head of International Programmes, led York St John University’s application. As Chair of the ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) Opportunities Group, Emma Taylor works with City of York Council, York City of Sanctuary, Refugee Action York, British Red Cross, University of York and other institutions to eliminate gaps in English language provision across York and to offer cross-agency volunteer training programmes. This work has been central to York St John’s application and a focal point of the University’s efforts.
The University engages in a number of activities to support those seeking sanctuary. These include free English lessons, visits by language students to local schools, a scholarship programme and sports training at the University’s Haxby Road sports site. In addition, Occupational Therapy students have worked with refugees on campus and have provided activities at dispersal camps in Middlesbrough.
Commenting on the University’s accomplishment, Sara Trewitt, City of Sanctuary Regional Coordinator for Yorkshire & Humberside, said:
“York St John University's application for University of Sanctuary designation demonstrated an impressive commitment from across the entire institution to supporting sanctuary seekers and fostering welcome for all. From the Vice Chancellor to the Students’ Union to the individual Schools, there was a clear, genuine cross-campus approach to embedding principles of inclusion and welcome.”