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

Staff and students from the University of Sheffield are going the extra mile to show their solidarity and support for the millions of refugees who have been forced to leave their homes.

The University has a long-standing tradition and commitment of welcoming refugees as both students and academics to Sheffield which became the UK’s first City of Sanctuary in 2012.

AbdiHowever, as the world continues to experience the largest movement of people since the Second World War, staff and students have united to help those who have lost so much, or all, of what they hold dear including their family, friends, homes, community, and careers.

University staff and students along with their family and friends will be donning their trainers to embark on the first Sheffield Walk for Refugees next week (Sunday 5 June 2016) which will help raise funds for a unique Refugee Student Scholarships scheme and to support refugee academics.

The three mile walk, which is suitable for all ages and abilities, will start at Forge Dam Café from 2pm and finish at the University Concourse on Western Bank.

The event will give people the chance to show their support for those across the world who are currently walking hundreds of miles to escape war or persecution because of their faith, political views, race or gender.

Members of the University will be walking alongside refugees and asylum seekers to show their solidarity and to celebrate the wonderful contribution of refugee scholars to our university and to our city.

Former University of Sheffield Students’ Union President and Research Officer, Abdi-aziz Suleiman, was born in Somalia and sought refuge in Sheffield after the outbreak of the civil war.

“When we talk about the displacement of people I think it can sometimes sound distant, but the reality is that if all of us look through our pasts we would inevitably find a point at which our families were at some point driven from where they felt home was,” said Abdi.

“I don’t doubt that six or seven years ago there were people sitting around in cafes in AIeppo and Damascus who could never have imagined themselves getting into a migrant boat and desperately trying to find security.

“I think that reminds all of us that no matter how distant the refugee crisis feels, it is genuinely something that is universal to all of us.”

The University’s Refugee Student Scholarships scheme supports those who have sought refuge in the UK. The scholarships cover the cost of tuition and provide a grant award to support living costs for each year of study. They are available to students studying undergraduate degrees or postgraduate masters courses.

In partnership with the Council for At Risk Academics (CARA), the University is also striving to host more refugee academics who are in danger or exile, giving them financial and practical help to continue their careers in a place of safety.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “There have been many people who have come from other countries to the University of Sheffield. Hans Krebs is just one person who came as a refugee from Nazi Germany. He came here and established a group that worked on aspects of biochemistry that have been important to the world.

“His discovery of the Krebs cycle saw him awarded a Nobel Prize, but he has also left a legacy in Sheffield which continues to inspire future generations.

“We want to do more to welcome refugee scholars and students who will in turn be able to give back to our communities. We want our University to be a safe place for students and academics to rebuild their lives and go on to make a difference to the world through their studies and research.”

Dr Alice Lawrence, Deputy Director of the English Language Teaching Centre is supporting the work carried out by the University to welcome refugees to the city.

“My grandma was born in 1904 in Eastern Turkey and when she was about 10 years-old the Ottoman Empire began to collapse,” said Dr Lawrence.

“Her life was in danger so along with her family they had to flee the country. Over the course of three or four years they walked all the way down to what is now Iraq.

"There were some very unpleasant people en route and she saw some very horrific sights – including a lot of death and sickness.

“Her story is repeated by so many people.”

In addition to the Sheffield Walk for Refugees, a team of 21 dedicated members of staff will be going one step further by taking part in The Big Walk 2016 which will see two teams walk across the width of the country in a symbolic and gruelling challenge.

Team champions Professor Wyn Morgan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching and Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Social Science, will lead their walkers in a race from either side of the Trans Pennine Trail to see who can get to the finish line in the middle of the country first. The walkers are hoping to raise more than £100,000.

Money raised during the Sheffield Walk for Refugees through donations on the day, and sponsorship from The Big Walk will help those who may never be able to return home, and give them a starting point from which they can rebuild their lives, their careers and to contribute to society again.

Additional information

Sheffield Walk for Refugees
To join the Sheffield Walk for Refugees please visit:

The Big Walk
To learn more or to donate to The Big Walk please visit

The Council for At-Risk Academics
Cara (the Council for At-Risk Academics) 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. Cara also supports higher education institutions whose continuing work is at risk or compromised.
For more information about CARA please visit

Supporting refugees
To find out more about how the University is supporting refugees and asylum seekers please visit

The University of Sheffield
With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities. A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in. Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields. Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859