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Responding to the crisis in Gaza

We’re taking action to support those affected by the ongoing war.

We are horrified at the appalling levels of civilian death, suffering and devastation in Gaza and the continued escalation of violence and war. Our thoughts are with those who have lost family members or friends, who have been taken hostage or have family or friends being held hostage, and those who have lost their homes and places of safety.

Across our community there are strong and diverse views about the situation. 

At the onset of this crisis, the Vice-Chancellor and senior colleagues worked with our Students' Unions and took time to meet with those most directly affected by the conflict: staff and students from Palestine and Israel, and student groups and societies which are closely connected through family, friendship or community ties to Palestine and Israel.

We have remained in contact with these groups at regular points since and our aim throughout has been to ensure all members of the University community are supported as much as possible, to respond as the situation develops, and to keep our community informed.

How we're responding

In Gaza, many university buildings have been destroyed, and many academics and students have had to leave their homes.

Sanctuary and scholarships

Our existing Sanctuary Fund was set up to establish the principle of sanctuary as a major focus for philanthropic fundraising at the University. Our Equal Access Scholarship are for students seeking refuge in the UK.

There are still no straightforward exit routes from Gaza and no special UK entry visa routes for refugees from Gaza. To support students through our Equal Access Scholarship, our first priority has been to reach out to students coming to York who are recorded as having Palestinian nationality on their applications (regardless of their citizenship or refugee status). This was to understand more about how they have been directly affected by the crisis and their financial needs.

To date, one Palestinian MSc student and one online student have accepted scholarship support. We have continued to offer Equal Access Scholarship funding to other students seeking asylum at York, as well as continuing our commitment to providing bursaries for refugee students and dedicated advice and support for all sanctuary-seeking students and applicants.

We have also been able to help an alumnus of York who is a PhD candidate affected by the crisis in Gaza. We have done this through working with the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), who provide support to affected alumni and other at-risk academics. 

We continue to identify resources and to raise support for the University of Sanctuary Fund, with colleagues working hard to secure even more support so that we can continue to offer funding where it is needed.

Support for Gaza’s education sector

We are focused on playing our role in supporting Palestinian universities and developing renewed and sustainable links between Palestinian and UK universities. 

We are working with Universities UK and Cormack Consultancy Group (CCG) in engaging with the TESI scheme, administered by An-Najar University (a West Bank Organisation). CCG are an experienced education consultancy who are facilitating the UK response. We will support the programme with educational materials and online content to help students continue to study remotely. Our scholarships provision going forward will include supporting HESPAL, a scholarship programme dedicated for Palestinians, developed in partnership with Palestinian Universities.

Our Library has also pledged support to enable materials to be made available to this programme. We are ready to go. We are determined to keep exploring and understanding other opportunities to support Gaza’s education sector, especially through this scheme. Whilst there are no twinning schemes currently operative - the closest is TESI - we will explore all options when these become available.

Research responsibilities

We recognise that some of our students want the University to determine the companies/industries our academics can work with, rather than focus on review of the research projects themselves.

As an academic community, we came together to develop our Research Reputation and Social Responsibility Framework to address this very issue. From January 2024, a collective of academic representatives (including elected student representation) engaged in many diverse views to develop this Framework. It was agreed not to list and prohibit specific companies. Our academic community agreed that the University must not, and should not, tell academics what they can or cannot research or teach. Presuming the subject matter is within the law and the merits of projects are reviewed, the Framework enshrines academic freedom as a fundamental principle, which is also an obligation under law.

Importantly, it tightens the scrutiny of research projects and our key principle underpinning the ethical standards which apply to academic activities - that of avoidance of harm.

Having now been approved through our extensive governance bodies, we will publish this soon and commit to reviewing the Framework within a year after its implementation.

Responsible investment

In April 2024, we announced that we no longer hold investments in companies that primarily make or sell weapons and defence-related products or services. 

This decision followed calls by members of our community to cut these investment ties and renew our commitment to the mission of public good. In response, we worked in partnership with our Student Unions to update our responsible investment statement.

Responsible investment commitments

Responding to global crises

Sadly, this is one of several instances of war, conflict and humanitarian disasters affecting members of our community. Find out more about how we support our staff and students, as well as how members of our community can help.

Supporting those affected by global crises