Providing Sanctuary

In 2019 the University of Exeter was recognised as a University of Sanctuary. This initiative aims to create a network of institutions which welcome people seeking sanctuary into their communities and seek to foster a culture of awareness and inclusivity.

As a global institution with students from over 140 countries across the world and alumni in 183, we offer a truly international student experience as well as a safe learning environment in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. We want this experience to be open to everyone, and so in 2018 we launched our Sanctuary Scholarships scheme. Sanctuary Scholarships are open to talented students who are seeking asylum, have limited leave to remain, ‘humanitarian protection’ or refugee status and International Care Leavers.

Displaced people who cannot access student finance are given a chance to study here by receiving support for fees and living costs. These students are bright, able and determined but have faced extraordinary circumstances.

Here are some of their stories.

We are grateful to alumni and supporters who have helped us fund scholarships. If you would like to donate to the Sanctuary Scholars Fund, please visit the website:

Anonymous, originally from Syria

“As a victim of many refugee-related crimes, I ended up in the UK in 2015 and was homeless until a month before Exeter welcomed me in to do my study. Before that, I was writing my application while rough sleeping in the streets through the most extreme weather. I was spending my nights in a sleeping bag and my days at a library researching while watching the suffering of refugees and experiencing my own.

“But I think all these mitigating circumstances played a role for Sanctuary Scholarship to see my perseverance rather than victimhood. Not being a citizen, I cannot enjoy the rights home and / or EU students enjoy in the UK. I cannot have access to UK funds or EU ones like the Wellcome Trust, RCUK, Erasmus, or many others. Sanctuary Scholarships removed the obstacle of accessing education as a refugee, but in the process this allowed me to have a roof over my head in a warm room I can call my own for the first time in this continent. It also paved the way for me to focus on the things that matter the most and on a personal level, such as social integration and building a network. The scholarship allowed me to move on after the atrocities I have faced in my home country and abroad since 2011.”

Sajjad Jabarkhel, originally from Afghanistan

“I grew up in Afghanistan and came to the UK at the age of 12. I went to school in north west London, learned English and studied hard for my GCSEs and A Levels. I applied for a place at Camborne School of Mines (CSM) and got accepted but then I realised that I might not be able to take up the offer.

“I wasn’t allowed to work. I wasn’t eligible for student finance and I didn’t have any other avenues in terms of income or savings or family support or whatsoever. Without the scholarship I had no options.

“I never ever thought in my life that I would be able to go to university especially with the situation that I was in. Support like this allows people like me to actually go and continue their education, become a person that can actually change the community, and have an impact.”

Roba Salibi, originally from Palestine

“It was a hard decision to seek asylum here and to start a new life, away from family, away from friends, away from home. But the idea of going home was

almost impossible because the political situation is very tense and there aren’t many opportunities for young people as I am to find secure jobs.

“I’m really appreciative of scholarships that are provided for refugees because they mean so much to them because it

gives them a sense of what they can do.”

Bola Olapade, originally from Nigeria

“I didn’t believe it until I got

here, until I moved into my

accommodation. It still felt so surreal.

The friends I’ve made, the people on my course, I feel like everyone here has really welcomed me and made me feel confident to be myself. No matter what happens, no matter what I go through.”

Anes Miloud, originally from Libya

“In 2011 the war broke out and at the age of 15 I found myself in a war zone. And whether you liked it or not, whether you were peaceful or violent or whatever, you had to do stuff that you wouldn’t like, because it was survival.

“Airports were closed and even if you had money in the bank you couldn’t access it anymore. Thankfully I was able to get out and I applied for asylum in the UK. It was nerve-wracking because you never know whether you’ll be accepted but you also know you can’t go back

so the choices are taken away from you.

“This scholarship means everything to me and I think

to all the people who’ve got it otherwise I don’t know what I would end up doing. I’m very grateful right now. It’s like my life was given back to me.”