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Extending the welcome: developing long-term solutions to supporting refugees and at-risk scholars

Published on 13 November 2019
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Taking place at the University of Edinburgh – a founding member of the ACU – from 7-8 March, 'Extending the welcome' brought together academics, policymakers, students, and partners from across the Commonwealth and beyond to explore the role of universities in supporting displaced people worldwide.

Providing a forum to share best practice, the event showcased innovative approaches to supporting refugees and at-risk academics – from King's College London's PADILEIA project, to Makerere University's Refugee Law Project, and student-led initiatives in the UK (Universities of Sanctuary), Canada (World University Service Canada) and Malta (Spark Fifteen).

Through a series of workshops and panels, discussions centred around four key areas: open and distance learning; mobility and sanctuary; pathway programmes and skills training; and partnerships. Key themes emerging from these discussions include:

  • The importance of working with – not necessarily for – those affected by displacement
  • Leveraging the power of partnerships and networks to ensure maximum impact within the higher education sector and beyond
  • Taking a holistic approach that looks beyond purely academic solutions e.g. offering pastoral care, networking opportunities, psychosocial / trauma counselling, and practical support
  • Sanctuary as a critical concept to guide collective action
  • Listening to students' voices and empowering them to set up peer-to-peer networks, enact change and support the integration of refugee students

Wrapping up the final day, conversations highlighted what tangible outputs can be delivered, and how by working together we can amplify the power of our networks and create long-term solutions to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, ideas and best practices, which will continue to support and provide sanctuary for refugees and at-risk scholars.

In-keeping with the ACU's commitment to connecting universities and promoting collaboration, 13 delegates from all corners of the Commonwealth were funded to attend – including four Commonwealth Scholars (themselves supported by The Windle Trust) – to ensure as many voices as possible were involved in these crucial conversations.

Follow the hashtag #ExtendTheWelcome to get involved with the conversation and keep up-to-date with the outcomes from this event.

More information

Organised in partnership with the British Council and the University of Edinburgh, this two-day event took place in Edinburgh from 7-8 March 2019.

Download the Extending the Welcome report here

Last year, the ACU and British Council signed a partnership agreement, uniting our two organisations together on common causes. This event was the first official output of this partnership.

The University of Edinburgh is a founding member of the ACU and generously hosted this event. Through their work with Cara (the Council for At-Risk Academics) and other scholarship schemes, the university is actively involved in supporting displaced people. Read more here.

The ACU is also united with the L'Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) through the signing of The Montréal Declaration.