University to welcome 250 Ukrainian refugee students


A university is to blaze a trail by being the first to bring up to 250 Ukrainians fleeing war to Britain.

Staff and students will help King’s College London – based in Denmark Hill, Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals in Waterloo – bring the refugees here by Easter.

King’s College, which also has a campus on the Strand, is the first university to act as a community sponsor.

The Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme uses community sponsorship but many individuals and families have been coming forward to house fleeing families.

The college will help bring Ukrainians, especially students whose university studies have been interrupted, to find ways to continue with their education.

King’s will try to match their former courses as closely as possible.

They will get at least six months of hosting, with individuals connected to the university, as well as support with applications for Universal Credit. Some might still want to go back, so no quick decisions will be made on their status.

King’s has a history of academic research into migration issues – but it also has a sanctuary programme which has helped refugees study while living in camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

The university worked with the Home Office and the UN high commission for refugees (UNHCR) to get itself approved as a community sponsor for the first time in December 2021.

That was to help a Syrian refugee student and her family come to the UK – she is due to start a degree in electronic engineering at King’s in September.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, King’s, working with charity Citizens UK, decided to scale up the model because of the crisis.

Citizen UK wants to bring 1,000 displaced Ukranians here, a quarter linked to King’s.

The second phase of the scheme will help students who decide they do want to stay in the UK to secure scholarships.

They may be followed by another 20 university schemes. Cititzen UK is working with an organisation in Warsaw to match refugees to university hosts – and refugees would only be placed after appropriate disclosure and barring service (DBS) and other checks.

King’s professor of global health and social medicine, Bronwyn Parry, said: “As the UK’s first university to act as a community sponsor for a refugee student and their family displaced by the Syrian war, King’s is ideally placed to support other universities in their ambitions to host displaced students and academics.”

King’s principal Shitij Kapur said: “It is absolutely critical that we do all we can to help and support students from Ukraine continue their education and realise their potential, in the midst of this refugee crisis.

Through our experiences as a Community Sponsor and in developing King’s Sanctuary Programme, we will be supporting other universities to share our learnings and work together to positively impact the lives of these students and their families.”

Jonathan Cox, the deputy director of Citizens UK, said: “We are delighted that King’s College London is working with us to help resettle Ukrainian refugees, and co-ordinate the higher education sector to respond to the crisis.

“Together we can help this scheme reach scale, ensure that it is safe for refugees and sponsors alike, become sustainable beyond the initial six months, and support universities and other civil society organisations to be at the forefront of the UK’s humanitarian sponsorship scheme for Ukraine.”

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