Supporting refugees and asylum seekers

Message from the Vice-Chancellor and Students' Union President

One of the most powerful images we have seen this year has been the sight of thousands of refugees making the long walk from countries where they fear for their lives to what they hope will be a new life for them and their families.

In the mass of people making journeys across forests and oceans, it is hard to pick out individual stories or to seriously imagine ourselves in the same situation. Yet in our University we have a particular reason to hold faith with those who make such a perilous journey; some of our own community had to do just the same.

We are a university with a long-standing tradition of welcoming refugees as academics and as students into a City of Sanctuary. Yet we want to welcome even more refugee scholars and students, who will, in turn, be able to give back to our communities.

So this year, we invite our staff, students, friends and city communities to join together and walk in support of refugees and those seeking asylum. Details of our walks are below.

These walks will not only raise funds to support more academics and students who are seeking refuge, but also show our support for refugees who now live in our city and those further away who are still at risk. Please join us if you can.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS
Vice-Chancellor of The University of Sheffield

Christy McMorrow
Sheffield University Student's Union President

The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Students' Union logos


Refugee Week logoRefugee Week

From 20 to 26 June, Refugee Week 2016 will celebrate the warm welcome shown to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

Our city is holding its own festival to mark Refugee Week this year: Migration Matters runs from 17-25 June to celebrate sanctuary in Sheffield, championing everyone who contributes to the city’s cultural diversity.

Music, good food and conversation will come together in a programme of events at Theatre Delicatessen, on The Moor.

View the programme

Life jacket mountain: An illustrated talk by Dr Dimitris Ballas and Phil JonesMIGRATION MATTERS FESTIVAL

Letters and pictures from Lesvos

By Dimitris Ballas and Phil Jones

Thursday 23 June, 5–6pm
Theatre Delicatessen, The Moor, Sheffield, S1 4PF

Dimitris Ballas is a senior lecturer in human geography and Phil Jones is a PhD research student in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield.

An illustrated talk reflecting on the refugee humanitarian crisis in Lesvos, following field class visits to the island in March 2016.

This event is part of the Migration Matters festival (17–25 June).


Convergence and divergence: responses to involuntary migration in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel

25 June 2016
The Diamond, University of Sheffield

This conference brings together internationally recognised experts on these two books to explore areas of convergence and divergence, especially related to the experience of involuntary migration, in order to understand better these two books.

Find out more about the conference and book tickets


Sheffield walk for refugees

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Sheffield walk for refugees on Sunday 5 June 2016. We look back on some of the highlights with our Sheffield walk for refugees Storify and our video below.

This walk builds on our University-wide initiative, the Big Walk 2016, where staff will walk over 120 miles over six days along the Trans Pennine Trail to raise funds for the Refugee Student Scholarships scheme and to support refugee academics.

Supporting at-risk academics and refugee students

We're a university with a long-standing tradition of welcoming refugees as academics and students. The Sheffield walk for refugees was a chance to celebrate our proud heritage and show solidarity with those that are still in danger.

If you'd like to support refugees who are teaching and learning at the University of Sheffield you can donate through our JustGiving website.

Make a donation


One of the founding ideas of a university is that it welcomes talent from around the world. This video presents a few of the stories and testimonies of refugee scholars and students at the University of Sheffield.

University of Sheffield students and staff stand up to show support for refugees


Fetched Home by Edmund de Waal

Award-winning artist, writer and Sheffield alumnus Edward de Waal has gifted the University a piece of art in response to our work to welcome staff and students from around the world, including those seeking refuge and asylum.

Edmund de WaalAn interview with Edmund de Waal

In this feature on Edmund de Waal we learn about Edmund de Waal's family history and his practice as an artist and a writer. You can also watch his lecture: On the eve of departure: homelessness, exile and art.


Migrants in the cityMigrants in the City conference on iTunes U

Rapid urbanisation is radically changing the economic, financial, social, and ecological landscape of our planet. It has been identified as the single greatest development challenge and opportunity for the 21st century.

International migration has been, is and will continue to be a key route both shaping and being shaped by urbanisation.

This international conference provides a forum for the examination of key questions related to contemporary international migration in the context of urban development, residential segregation and diversity.

What our staff and students are already doing


From Somalia to Sheffield: Abdi's story

Abdi-Aziz Suleiman came to the UK and to Sheffield as a child as an asylum seeker from Somalia. As President of our Students' Union he co-founded our #WeAreInternational campaign with the Vice-Chancellor.

Why I'm proud to be a 'bad migrant'

Abdi reflects on society’s idea of a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migrant and why we shouldn’t allow anyone to convince us not to have empathy. Posted on the New Statesman.

Sheffield skylineA PLACE OF SANCTUARY

Sheffield – a city and university of sanctuary

As a City of Sanctuary, Sheffield has a history of providing a welcome and hospitality for refugees and asylum seekers. We're proud to be part of this in our role as a University of Sanctuary.

We have staff, students and alumni who were refugees and our academic staff work with refugees in the city. We're associated with Cara, an organisation that helps academics in immediate danger, those forced into exile, and many who choose to remain in their home countries despite the serious risks they face.

Comment and research


Aylan Kurdi: How a single image transformed the debate on immigration

Researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Visual Social Media Lab carried out a detailed investigation into how pictures of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi galvanised the global conscience reveals how social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and searching on Google, can suddenly change the very language of the debate on immigration.


Vice-Chancellor speaks in defence of British universities

27 January 2016 Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett used the annual lecture of the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) to call for the UK to value the powerful contribution of universities to society.

He also made an impassioned call for the role of universities in liberating the talents of staff and students of all nations. He underlined that, on Holocaust Memorial Day in particular, the UK should recognise the vital contribution to British universities of academics fleeing persecution from Nazi oppression under the Reich to today's asylum-seeking scholars from Syria and Iraq.


A test we must not fail

Ellis Island

31 May 2016 Our Vice-Chancellor reflects on how refugees have enriched societies everywhere after a visit to Ellis Island, the reception centre for millions of immigrants to the United States.


What the experts say


10 September 2015 Academics from across the University of Sheffield share their views on the refugee crisis.


Justice should be the driving force for reporting on the refugee crisis

18 September 2015 Steven Harkins, a PhD student from the University of Sheffield's Department of Journalism Studies, argues that justice should be the driving force for reporting on the refugee crisis.


Why prioritising women and children in the refugee crisis is a terrible idea

8 September 2015 - The New Statesman It is not enough to only save the children, or even the children and the women. We must stop trying to choose the groups of refugees deserving enough of our help, says Professor Jennifer Saul.


Refugees like my grandfather were welcome in 1948, why do we need a hashtag now

6 September 2015 - Huffington Post Roberts Zivtins explains how 67 years ago our then registrar offered his grandfather a job at the University while he was living in a displaced persons camp – something which changed the lives of him and his pregnant wife.


I am an immigrant

2 September 2015 American Professor Jennifer Saul, from our Department of Philosophy, comments on the refugee crisis and the use of the seemingly neutral term 'migrant'.

Campaigns and support for students


The government must do more for refugees

Professor Andrew Geddes from our Department of Politics is among a number of leading academics to sign a letter urging the British government to urgently change its approach to the European refugee and migrant crisis.


We are international

We launched our We are international campaign to ensure that the contribution of international students to our economy and culture is recognised.


Support for asylum seekers

We're committed to supporting students who have sought asylum in the UK through scholarships, services and a dedicated asylum seeker contact.

Asylum Seeker Scholarships

These scholarships will be available for students studying undergraduate degrees or postgraduate masters courses. Our aim is to support students under the government’s resettlement programme or who are recent arrivals in the UK.

Help for current students affected by the refugee crisis

Our Students' Union Advice Centre is here to help you during your academic studies, and can also provide advice on issues such as finance and housing, asylum and working in the UK.


Back where you came from

For Refugee Week 2015, University academic Dr Casey Strine and artist/art therapist Emilie Taylor worked with asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield to create an art exhibition reflecting on their experiences of seeking sanctuary in the city.

Find out more