Author Archives: Natalia Crisanti

photo of open box with clothes and trainers in

Donate Clothes, Contribute to Sanctuary Initiatives

This Thursday 13 June, a new staff group called The Sanctuary Collective will launch – a way for us to do something helpful and productive for asylum seekers and refugees in our work time using a range of skills and interests that might not be part of our current roles.

One of the first initiatives will be a men’s clothing drive – encouraging staff, students, and friends to donate good quality men’s clothes for asylum seekers and refugees in our community.

What clothing can I give and how?

We’re looking for men’s clothes because in July we’re hosting a group of residents from Napier Barracks in Folkestone, many of whom arrived in the UK recently with just the clothes on their backs. As we are providing sporting activities on campus as part of an ‘Exploring Higher Education’ day, it would be great to be able to offer changes of clothes to participants (particularly sporty gear – t shirts, shorts, tracksuits, sweatshirts, trainers, socks).

Bring clean, useable men’s or unisex clothing to the Sanctuary Collective launch in Rutherford Lounge at 2pm on Thursday 13th June, or bring to Rutherford Annexe foyer (low building next to Rutherford College) whenever suits you Monday-Friday between 9-5pm – any questions, message Natalia on

Why should I join the Sanctuary Collective?

Be a part of the University’s civic mission in your paid Kent volunteering hours, and spend some time in your working life doing something that has a real practical impact on a part of our society that’s often overlooked or even stigmatised.

Grow your transferable skills and contacts as you meet people from across the university and work together on projects that give you another perspective, as you share and gain knowledge with colleagues about civic mission, philanthropy, events and communications.

In agreement with your line manager, you can use your staff volunteering hours to do this meaningful socially useful work as part of the 25 hours’ of volunteering time you get per year (pro-rata for part-time staff.) More information on volunteering and how to record your volunteering hours can be found on the People and Culture SharePoint site.

I’m interested – what next?

Join our sympa mailing list via our online form to be invited to meetings and activities, and participate in our first in-person launch meeting in Refugee Week:

The Sanctuary Collective Launch, 2-3pm on Thursday 13 June, in Rutherford Lounge – an informal meeting to see who we are and discuss ideas about what we can do to shape and mobilise the collective. By signing up via the form, you will be invited to this and future events.

Look forward to seeing you there!

close up photos of tapes

Conserving collective learning from two decades of welcoming refugees in Kent

The University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives are delighted to be working with the Kent Refugee Action Network on the KRAN Family Matters: Kent Refugee Action Network 20th Anniversary Heritage Project. This is a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to celebrate the 20th anniversary of KRAN by recording oral histories with the people involved with the organisation.  

The project aims to learn the story of the organisation first-hand, from the people involved in setting it up and realising its vision to support under-age asylum seekers. During the project, KRAN’s Youth Ambassadors will be trained in Oral History techniques, and will interview those involved in the organisation, recording and conserving the collective learning gained from two decades of working to welcome refugees in Kent.  

The oral histories will provide a record of the challenges and successes in KRAN’s history through stories and experiences passed down from founders, volunteers, staff and supporters. The project team will be working to fill gaps, bring in new perspectives and give voice to people excluded from traditional historical records.  

Special Collections and Archives at the University of Kent will be providing a permanent home for the KRAN oral history collection, and ensure they are catalogued and preserved using professional standards, and made accessible according to data protection and confidentiality requirements.  

Do you want to get involved?

We also have a great opportunity for students or staff to get involved with the project by contributing to transcriptions for the oral histories being recorded. This is an ideal opportunity to learn more about KRAN and the work they do with refugees in Kent, and also build skills in oral history transcriptions and producing transcription summaries. All training will be provided and the work can be done entirely remotely. If you are interested in this opportunity please do get in touch with Beth Astridge in Special Collections and Archives:  

photo of woman in headscarf and three men seated at a table looking at a laptop screen

Academics collaborate to enhance higher education provision in Syria

Academics from two Eastern Arc universities are co-leading a collaboration with Sham University to enhance higher education provision in the non-regime-controlled northwest of Syria, as part of ongoing work supported and facilitated by the Cara – Council for At Risk Academics – Syria Programme.   

Sham University is located in the town of Azaz, which has received huge numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) since 2014. Approximately fifty percent of Sham’s students live in IDP camps, and the remainder are drawn from towns in Azaz and surrounding areas. 

HE institutions in northwest Syria face many challenges. The pool of qualified staff is small, resources are severely limited, and security threats are commonplace. Despite these challenges however, Sham is developing a reputation for high quality HE provision and has signed memoranda of understanding with a small number of Turkish universities, which allow Sham graduates to progress on to master courses.    

Since summer 2022, this collaboration has focused on governance, quality enhancement, staff development, and education design.  At face-to-face workshops in Turkey and regular online meetings, academics from Sham have worked closely with UK colleagues to review existing policies and practices and to balance meeting international standards with addressing local challenges and needs. Achievements so far include a committee structure, ensuring democratic decision-making at all levels from individual departments to the University Council, and redesigned undergraduate programmes in selected faculties to support sustainability, optimise resilience to risk, allow for module-sharing across courses and address uneven workloads for students and staff.   

In the current phase of the project, Dr Tahir Zaman (Sussex), Dr Tom Parkinson (Kent) and Professor Aysha Divan (Leeds) are mentoring teams of Sham researchers to undertake small-scale action research projects, each addressing strategic priorities identified by staff, students, and community stakeholders. Areas of focus include addressing gender disparities in participation in higher education in the region, designing curricula that meet the needs of the local community and labour market, and devising university-wide elective modules to enhance transferable skills across all programmes. 

Additionally, Dr Juliet Millican (IDS, based at Sussex) and Dr Luma Tabbaa (Kent) are currently delivering a second webinar series focusing on teaching methods.  Dr Julia Hope (Kent), Dr Fateh Shaban (Kent) and Nidal Ajaj (Kent) are mentoring Sham lecturers to prepare applications for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).  

The team are always looking for volunteers to contribute as mentors, facilitators, or critical friends.  Please contact Tom Parkinson ( if you are interested.  

If you’d like to know more about the Cara Syria Programme, which supports at-risk Syrian academics to continue their academic work, contact Kate Robertson, Syria Programme Director at

Join the Sanctuary Collective – Use Your Skills to Make a Difference

Do you want to do something helpful and productive for asylum seekers and refugees in our University and local community but don’t know where to start?

Join Kent’s new Sanctuary Collective, meet other staff members from across the university, and help us drive the Sanctuary programme forward.

What can I get involved with?

The projects within the Sanctuary Programme at Kent are varied and so all kinds of skills and availability are welcome to take on remote tasks and on campus tasks.

Initiatives that might benefit from staff volunteering input include: 

  • Helping to welcome and give guided campus tours to visitors such as those seeking asylum housed in the local area, groups of unaccompanied migrants, cohorts from our Ukraine twinning programme;
  • English conversation/ social groups online;
  • Communications and events support for fundraising events;
  • Volunteering with Sanctuary-themed library archive projects;
  • Organising and promoting clothing donation drives;
  • Collaboration with student volunteers and groups such as STAR (Student Action for Refugees);
  • Collaboration with nearby charitable organisations supporting those seeking Sanctuary in our community

This list is just the beginning! Together as Kent staff, we will continue to identify and embrace new opportunities and initiatives that we can meaningfully address as a collective.

What’s in it for me?

Be a part of the University’s civic mission in your paid Kent volunteering hours, and spend some time in your working life doing something that has a real practical impact on a part of our society that’s often overlooked or even stigmatised.

Grow your transferable skills and contacts as you meet people from across the university and work together on projects that give you another perspective, as you share and gain knowledge with colleagues about civic mission, philanthropy, events and communications.

In agreement with your line manager, you can use your staff volunteering hours to do this meaningful socially useful work as part of the 25 hours’ of volunteering time you get per year (pro-rata for part-time staff.) More information on volunteering and how to record your volunteering hours can be found on the People and Culture SharePoint site.

I’m interested – what next?

Join our sympa mailing list via our online form to be invited to meetings and activities, and a Teams chat to share ideas. Together we can make a difference.

Photo of group of 30 men walking through the bluebell woods on University of Kent campus

Exploring Higher Education and Looking Towards the Future: Asylum Seekers Warmly Welcomed at Kent

I was delighted to welcome 38 residents and friends from the Napier Barracks in Folkestone to our Canterbury campus this week, to provide information on opportunities for continued education if and when they are granted leave to remain. The group of young men came from over 10 different countries and spoke a mixture of languages, interpreting amongst themselves for those with less English fluency, with some additional translation provided by Kent staff. Having interrupted higher education studies and specialised jobs when they fled their home countries to seek asylum in the UK, they were keen to see first hand what an educational experience here might be like and how they could access it.

[Photo above shows Admissions talk on getting a place at University]

Encouragement and practical guidance

Their visit began in the Templeman Library, and included a welcome from two of our first year Sanctuary Scholarship students, themselves refugees, who are now thriving at the University of Kent. They encouraged others to hold fast through the demoralising uncertainty and continue to reach for their ambitions of completing or beginning studies in the UK. Colleagues from our Admissions and Visa Compliance teams were able to provide guidance on entry requirements, personal statements, application processes and English courses. They were also able to give time to addressing individual queries on next steps to re-enter education or validate their qualifications to seek employment here.

[Photo above shows individual consultations on qualifications and next steps]

Enjoying the campus together

The atmosphere was joyful as we shared a hot meal in the Rutherford Dining Hall, some played pool and others chatted, enjoying the impromptu piano playing of a student and the views of the vast open space that surrounds our campus. We then walked around campus, through the bluebell woods and to the Kent Community Oasis Garden, where language barriers fell away when everyone was invited to get their hands in the soil and plant bulbs and seeds. A participant told me what a stark and beautiful contrast it was to be surrounded by so much countryside, and experience novelty and a sense of freedom and agency, after 9 weeks in limbo in the barracks.

As we discussed the patience required to make things grow and our volatile UK climate, we were reminded of the precarity of life in detention as an asylum seeker, of how much is out of their control. And yet, if we plant seeds, if we look with hope towards the future and nurture what is in our power to sustain, we might one day see growth and new life.

[Photo above shows planting activity in Kent Community Oasis Garden]

Making a lasting difference

The gratitude and positivity from the group was effusive, they were really happy to have spent a day being considered as individuals with a past involving expertise and academic interest, and a future of possibility and hope.

“Thank you so much for a beautiful welcome, we are so glad to be here.”

“Everyone has been so kind and so helpful. I have ideas about what I could do, I really want to study and learn.”

[Photo above participants enjoying lunch at Rutherford Dining Hall]

Help us give more hope

Huge thanks to YMS Travel who generously offered free return transportation for this group from Folkestone to Canterbury, as a supporter of the University Sanctuary Fund.

We’re working to expand our programme of Exploring Higher Education days for asylum seekers in the region, to share our university knowledge, expertise and facilities in a way that can inspire and inform people with an uncertain future and help them to realise their dreams in the UK.

Would you like to be part of this initiative in some way? Email us at to talk about sponsoring or supporting, or volunteering to contribute to organisation, interpretation and activities at the University of Kent, so together we can really show our compassion in action and declare whole-heartedly: refugees welcome.


Templeman Library

Kent 2030: Consultation outcomes on course changes 

In order to help us meet future student demand we are making some changes to the courses we offer. This is linked to data on what students are looking to study nationally, recognising the different needs of new generations of students to come.   

Consultation process and outcomes 

We shared proposals at the end of January 2024 for courses that would potentially be phased out and not recruited to in future. Since then, we have been consulting with staff, during which colleagues from courses proposed for closure were invited to submit counterproposals.  

The Size & Shape Workstream staff, including Directors of Division, have been meeting to carefully consider the counterproposals and have made recommendations to our Executive Group on which courses to phase out and how, in order to allow the University to find the cost savings it needs. The Executive Group have reviewed these recommendations and have now approved plans. Outcomes of the consultation for all subjects proposed to be phased out can be found on the course changes webpage.   

Affected staff and students have been contacted about the outcomes of the consultation in their areas.  See timeline of when detailed information on course changes will become available 

Student Open Forums 

You are invited to attend one of our Student Open Forums to find out more about the Kent 2030 programme and to ask any questions you may have. If you are studying a subject which is unaffected by the course changes, you are still welcome to attend Student Open Forums to find out more: 

Emotional support

Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) team can support you if you are worried about the impact these changes are having on your emotional wellbeing. As well as 1-2-1 support, SSW are also hosting some online group workshops on managing your emotions during a period of change or uncertainty on 28 March, 2 April and 11 April. Check out the SSW events calendar for more information and to book your free place, and  take a look at other online and telephone support which you can access 24/7 as a Kent student.

See the Kent 2030 course changes webpage for more information including a timeline and support for students affected by the course changes.  

candy cane heart

Happy Christmas feeling like a tall order? Tips for coping with complicated feelings in the holidays

Perhaps you love Christmas and all the traditions, from music to present wrapping to treats, but if it brings up difficult memories or makes you feel anxious, you aren’t alone in that feeling. The forthcoming holiday can cause a mixture of complicated situations and emotions, such as family and relationship conflict, anxiety around relationships, worries about food, coping with grief, or feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you’re missing out. Even if you look forward to the holidays, it’s normal to experience periods of stress or difficulty, when your environment changes after a term studying.

We asked Rachel, a Mental Health Adviser at Kent’s Student Support and Wellbeing who offers specialist support to care leavers and students who are estranged from their families, what tips would you give everyone for coping with complicated feelings during the holidays?

Make a plan, take control 

What are the main issues you will face? Loneliness, or overwhelm surrounded by too many people? Think through the days that might be particularly difficult and plan extra support and connection, or breaks from the busyness. If you want to escape/ learn/ relax online without a known group, you could look up things to join in with via Eventbrite, searching by your interests.

Set your intentions

Whether it’s sleep, how you eat, how much you drink, where exercise plays a role, or whether you engage in certain conversations, set your intentions in advance so you can feel more in control in the moment.

Identify your coping skills

What makes you feel better when you’re struggling? Taking a nap? Going for a walk alone or with someone else? If you’re staying on/ near the Canterbury or Medway campus, or nearby, you can sign up to Walking Buddy to be matched with another student who wants to meet and go for a walk locally. Do you want to stay busy and make new friends at Kent? Check out the calendar for details of what’s on until the end of term and beyond, including games and puzzles you can borrow over the holidays. Does meditation help you? You could connect with the Mindfulness Society before the end of term, or check out some free mindfulness apps. Would curling up with a comfort book, or a pick me up playlist help? You can borrow from Templeman and Drill Hall Libraries, including fiction and digital media. Think about it in advance so you can have those things ready to reach for when it’s all getting a bit much.

Don’t compare – live your holiday the best way you can

Try not to compare your experiences, feelings and relationships to others’, and instead allow yourself to be present in your life without judgement.

Find support

It’s okay to not be okay during the holidays and reach out for support when you need it. Student Support and Wellbeing offices are open after the end of the university term until Tuesday 19 December, and then closed from Wednesday 20 December until Tuesday 2 January 2024. During this closure, there are lots of emergency contacts available to support you wherever you find yourself during vacation.

Our mental health partner organisation, Spectrum Life, is available for crisis support throughout vacation. Spectrum Life provide.

For expert information tailored to students from Student Minds, check out the Christmas resources on the Student Space website, which provides also provides telephone, email, webchat and text support. There is more information about Christmas and mental health from the charity, Mind.

The charity Rees Foundation works to ensure that people leaving care have support networks in place, and are not left alone to tackle life’s challenges, and run some ‘Let’s Connect’ projects, connecting people with other members of the care experienced community.

24/7 Support, even during vacation

University of Kent students wherever they are located can access free, 24/7 online support for issues around mental health and wellbeing via Togetherall, and online platform overseen by qualified therapists which recognised nationally through awards by the NHS and is a safe environment. Togetherall can provide peer talk therapies where members initiate or join forums on topics ranging from depression and anxiety to relationship issues, work stress, abuse, self-harm and eating disorders, improving motivation and self-awareness. There are also online courses which can be taken any time, and brief counselling providing immediate 24/7 support from Guides who are trained counsellors.

Our partner organisation Spectrum Life is available for in-the-moment emotional and practical support for emotional distress or concerns about your mental health during vacation. They offer online, text and telephone support from qualified counsellors and mental health professionals, and will work with you in getting initial support and help, and can liaise with University Student Support and Wellbeing when they are next available to continue supporting you. Telephone 0800 0318227 and press option 1, Text/WhatApp ‘Hi’ to +44 (0)7418 360780, or search for the Spectrum Life app from your app store and follow the log in instructions, using organisation code ud3Z2brH.

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

group of people singing and clapping

Kent Community shared festive wishes and support for University’s Sanctuary students

A memorable Christmas celebration

We were delighted to welcome community members, staff, and students to the University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus on Tuesday 12th December for Carols Around the Christmas Tree. It was an opportunity for us to come together to celebrate the season, sing carols, listen to a performance by the Canterbury 4 Ukraine Ladies Choir, and hear more about the University’s sanctuary programme.

photo of a group if women singing, conductor facing the audience and smiling

The STAR (Student Action for Refugees) student group read some extracts from the Refugee Tales to reflect on the experiences of detainees in the UK. We heard from Philip Pothen and Sam Scott on the University’s plans to continue fundraising to support our Sanctuary Scholars, and how together we can help refugees and asylum seekers pursue their dreams.

group of people smiling young man reading, with people listening

All were invited to add their wishes to our Christmas tree, and think about what we could contribute in terms of time, expertise and donations to grow our work in making a real difference to local asylum seekers and refugees, and provide a transformative experience to our student scholars.

woman writing on a tag next to a decorated christmas tree

Student, staff and community attendees then enjoyed mince pies and mulled wine and mulled apple juice together.

young man with long hair and woolly hat raising his glass and smiling at the camera close up of Christmas tree with wish tag reading 'I wish all students felt safe and wanted here'

What are Sanctuary Scholarships?

We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to access higher education whatever their background. We currently have 11 students on Sanctuary Scholarships, giving refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to receive a free University of Kent education, with a full fee waiver as well as a small maintenance grant.

Thanks to a generous supporter, every gift to the Sanctuary Fund this season will be matched, meaning that with Gift Aid, every pound you give now is worth two pounds fifty!

This Christmas as you plan presents for friends and family, please consider giving the gift of contributing to someone’s education and ability to support themselves while they study here. Give to the Sanctuary Fund online.


cartoon of to women huddled together with a larger than life hand above them, sheltering them from rain

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 

Every year on the 25th of November, the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. But why this specific date? The answer lies in a tragic event that sparked an international movement. On 25th November 1960, the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic, were brutally murdered on orders of the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo. Since 1981, women’s rights activists have used this date to raise awareness of gender-based violence and campaign for its end. This day serves as a stark reminder of the violence many women and individuals who identify as women still face, even in the year 2023. 

Let’s look at statistics

49 countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence. 37 countries worldwide still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim. And only two-thirds of countries have outlawed domestic violence. These figures paint a grim picture of the global state of affairs when it comes to violence against women. 

Expect Respect at Kent

Every individual, irrespective of their gender, deserves to feel safe on campus. In light of this, here at the University of Kent we have a clear and strong message: we do not accept any forms of violence or abuse. But this commitment isn’t just a hollow promise. We believe that everyone has the power to do something about unacceptable behaviour. 

Even if you’re not directly involved, if you witness any lack of respect, bullying, or abuse, you have a choice. You can call out the behaviour and report it.  We believe that everyone’s voice matters and everyone can contribute to building a safer community. 

If you see abusive behaviour, call it out 

If you wish to report any incidents, the ‘REPORT + SUPPORT’ is our confidential online reporting tool. You can report and get advice about sexual misconduct and abuse, domestic abuse and stalking, physical and verbal abuse, spiking, harassment or bullying, discrimination or hate incidents. You can choose to report anonymously or get support from an adviser.  If you wish to submit a report, provide details for our team to follow up on, or simply learn more, visit the Report and Support webpage. It’s a step towards taking control, getting support, and building a safer community. 

Upcoming support events

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we have organised the following events:

  • At Kent Sport on 7 Dec at midday there is a free self-defence class available for all students who identify as women, and non binary people.
  • There are also giveaways taking place on 28 November and 6 December in Medway. At the giveaways you can get free torches, gadgets to prevent drink spiking, condoms and more. There will also be specialist wellbeing advisers to talk through questions or concerns, or find out more about reporting issues.

Learn more

Want to learn more about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women? You can navigate to the dedicated United Nations page to find out more about the scale of the problem and the initiatives that aim to pave the way towards a world free of gender-based violence. 


Transgender Pride Flag

Transgender Awareness Week, 13-19 November

Did you know that one in every hundred students in our Kent community has said that they identify as transgender or gender non-conforming? However we suspect this number might be much higher.

13-19 November is Transgender Awareness Week, which aims to:

  • raise awareness of the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people
  • share stories of transgender people in our society
  • advance advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.

Recent figures show that the number of UK students who define themselves as neither male nor female has more than doubled in the last two years. LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall explains that people are becoming increasingly confident to be themselves, thanks to more social acceptance and visibility of different sexual and gender identities.

The big impact of small actions

At Kent we hope to further our inclusive community, eradicate prejudice, and support one another.

On this subject, Lynne Regan, a senior member of the Student Support and Wellbeing team on the Medway campus, who also recently completed her Doctorate on the experiences of trans students at uni, explains how small actions of recognition and awareness of trans students can have a big impact:

“Rainbow lanyards are available for staff and students from most college and library receptions at Canterbury and Medway. Designed around the ‘Inclusion Flag’ which incorporates the Pride rainbow flag with pink, blue, brown and black representing the trans community and people of colour within the LGBT+ community. Wearing the lanyards shows students that they can ‘bring their whole selves’ to you without fear of judgement or an unsupportive reaction. One of the interview participants in my study stated “I love that many of the lecturers wear these lanyards with the rainbow pattern on them, which signals to the students that they are LGBTQ+ allies and can be approached… I like that I have someone I can actually turn to very visibly… It makes me feel very welcome.”

“Another thing you can do is to use inclusive language and respect pronouns. If someone has told you the pronouns that they use, then respect this. Use the pronouns they have asked you to use. Do not assume pronouns based on the way someone looks or sounds.”

Support for students at Kent

  • There is a support group in Canterbury that meets twice a month. It is open to trans, intersex and non-binary people at Kent. The group is run by trans/non-binary people for trans/non-binary people. Family and partners are welcome.
  • There are gender-neutral toilet facilities across our Canterbury and Medway campuses.
  • Student Support and Wellbeing offer free mental health support, counselling and peer support groups to all students and have an advisor with specialist LGBTQ+ support knowledge.
  • Check out our directory of LGBTQ+ self-help resources including details of free, confidential, specialist helplines and support group networks, such as Metro, The Be You Project, and Gendered Intelligence.
  • You can also update your gender and preferred name (which shows on your Microsoft Teams account) on KentVision.
  • Have you heard of the Gender Affirmation Fund? The fund supports students who identify as transgender, non binary or gender non-conforming with the purchase of gender affirming items such as binders, clothing, packers, makeup, hair extensions, pouches, Stand To Pee devices, gendered religious headwear or clothing and minor cosmetic procedures such as ear piercing or for managing body hair.

Experienced hate or discrimination because of your gender identity?

You can report incidents of assault, harassment, and hate via the REPORT + SUPPORT tool, with or without giving your name. Even if you don’t choose to request support, by reporting an incident you will help to make the University a safer place for all.

Help us create a university community which belongs to all students, and where all students feel they belong by sharing this information on transgender awareness. #InclusiveKent