Brilliant Club

Sanctuary Scholars Graduate from the University of Manchester

14 Jun 2023

Tuesday, 13th June marked an important graduation event at the University of Manchester. This graduation, however, was not held for those finishing their undergraduate courses, but was instead a celebration of the young students reaching the end of The Sanctuary Scholars programme, which is running for the first time this academic year.

The Sanctuary Scholars programme, led by Senior Access and Success Projects Officer, Dr Alex Owens, provides migrant and refugee students with the opportunity to work with PhD researchers from a range of subject areas in order to tackle a ‘Big Question’. On the programme, our Sanctuary Scholars studied three disciplines over a five week course: biology, popular culture, and post-colonial studies.

The graduation event, which rounds off the programme, celebrates the students’ completion of the programme, and also provides the students with knowledge of UK university systems and, in particular, highlight how eligible students can apply for Sanctuary Scholarships within Higher Education institutions. A teacher at The East Manchester Academy, who partnered with The Brilliant Club to deliver the programme, said: “We really appreciated the support from Alex and the fact the programme was tailored to the situation our cohort find themselves in. It opens up conversations about university, especially in terms of scholarships”.

The graduation event kicked off on Tuesday afternoon, in the University of Manchester’s Roscoe lecture theatre. Once the scholars arrived, they were introduced to their hosts at The Brilliant Club and the University of Manchester, before embarking on a campus tour led by student ambassadors. On the tour, the scholars discovered what it is like to live and learn on a university campus.

This was followed by a presentation from the charity WeBelong, a migrant youth-led organisation which campaigns for the rights of young migrants and develops young leaders by providing advice, support, and training. Adam Umarji, WeBelong’s Manchester Youth Engagement Officer, provided the Sanctuary Scholars with guidance on applying to and accessing university study as a refugee or migrant. The scholars then heard from a student who is currently on a Sanctuary Scholarship at Manchester.

The graduation was a fantastic conclusion to the Sanctuary Scholars Programme. During the ceremony, Lety, one of the programme PhD tutors, congratulated the students on how much work they have put into the course, praised the students for their resilience and for their willingness to learn and grow, and said that the scholars have all shown the ability and awareness to make connections with the experiences of others throughout the course. For their final assignments, students were able to either write or create a presentation around the big question ‘Is Change Important?’. The multidisciplinary approach to the course yielded creative and critical results with one student even making an argument about polar bears adapting in the face of global warming and the links this could have to post-colonial theory.

Mahmood, who holds a Sanctuary Scholarship at the University of Manchester, emphasised the importance of the programme, saying “I wish there was something like this when I was applying”.

For more information about The Brilliant Club’s Sanctuary Scholars Programme, please contact us at