UCL Department of Geography


Commitment to Support Refugees

Dynamic Meeting Confirms Commitment to Support Refugees and Migrants at UCL

On Monday 31st October 2022, 45 students and staff attended a lively Open Meeting to coordinate activities in support of refugees and migrants at UCL and to consider the work that lies ahead to enhance access to higher education.

A coordinating group from Refuge in a Moving World presented key proposals currently under consideration by Professor Anthony Smith (Vice Provost of Education & Student Affairs). These proposals were developed based on extensive consultation and the efforts of a committed group of UCL staff and students, following a successful Open Meeting in February 2016. The initiatives were fully discussed and there was clear support for the proposed agenda, with productive additional suggestions emerging in the discussion.

Proposed initiatives include:

  1. Establishment of a ‘Migration Support Unit’ and ‘Forced Migrant Champions’ to coordinate, oversee and embed activities across UCL;
  2. Recruitment and funding for students who are forced migrants to access UCL Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate pre-undergraduate foundation courses
  3. Review and enhancement of current scholarship provision with a specific focus on a fair and sustainable scholarship programme for refugees and migrants at all levels, from foundation courses to academic fellowships
  4. Familiarisation with HE volunteer taught programme: a non-selective pre-foundation information and orientation programme open to all displaced people in London regardless of immigration status - in coordination with STAR and staff and student volunteers.

Meeting participants agreed that the proposal would draw together and maximise capacity and expertise at UCL, given the considerable activity happening already across UCL departments and student groups. The proposal was seen to offer a solid framework for taking a formal public position consistent with UCL's mission and an unmet need in the capital.

The main part of the meeting focussed on how to move forward on the proposed initiatives and others. The group generated wide-ranging, creative and practical ideas including:

  • Continuing to foster collaborations with UCL programmes (e.g. Global Citizenship), departments, and student groups (e.g. the new Refugee Support Group), as well as community /national organisations working with displaced peoples
  • Ensuring maximum inclusivity, for example by linking with LGBT+ groups
  • Learning from cross-national experiences, for example in Germany or Sweden
  • Developing MOOCs for people in refugee camps and host cities in the Global SouthWorking with UCL Academy to support access for refugee/asylum-seeking students

As one meeting participant observed: "Universities are places dedicated to thinking, but now is the time to act!"

For more information and to get involved, contact Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Coordinator of the Refuge in a Moving World research network, by email at e.fiddian-qasmiyeh@ucl.ac.uk.