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New University of York college named after human rights defender, David Kato

Posted on 15 June 2021

The University of York has named its new college after the Ugandan human rights defender and gay rights activist, David Kato.

David Kato Credit: Stephen Wandera/​AP Photo/​Shutterstock

The announcement comes during national Refugee Week (14-20 June) as the University celebrates its newly-awarded status as a University of Sanctuary with a launch event on Wednesday (16 June).

David Kato came to the University of York in 2010 for six months as a Protective Fellow on the Human Rights Defenders Programme at the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR).  

His time at York provided respite from his role in Uganda as a human rights activist, and his legacy supports the University’s continued commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities (LGBT+). 


David returned home to Uganda to fight the country’s controversial anti-homosexuality act. But he was murdered in Kampala in 2011, weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid paper that called for homosexuals to be killed.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “Colleges are an integral part of University life here at York and we knew we wanted an inspiring role model when naming our new college - one which would also reflect our belief in equality, diversity and inclusion. 

“It is particularly poignant as we celebrate our status as a University of Sanctuary, in recognition of our approach to offering a welcoming and safe place for refugees, asylum seekers and other people who have been forced to migrate.

 “We are especially grateful to David’s family for working with us and supporting us in this decision. We hope that by using his name many more people will become aware of the important work he championed.”

Artist's impression of The David Kato College Credit: Sheppard Robson Architects

 Director of the Centre for Applied Human Rights, Professor Paul Gready said:“The naming of the David Kato College also symbolises and demonstrates our admiration of, and solidarity with, human rights defenders across the world and with all previous Protective Fellows, of which there have been over 90 from more than 45 countries over the last 12 years.  

“The Human Rights Defenders programme brings defenders who risk their lives to fight global injustice and strengthen democracy to our university to share their expertise.” 

University of Sanctuary

The David Kato College is one of two colleges currently being constructed on the University’s Campus East in Heslington, York. The first rooms will be occupied by students in September 2022. The other college has already been named after scholar and Yorkshire businesswoman, Anne Lister.

The name was selected from a large list of suggestions of notable people with connections to the University and the city, which were put forward by students and staff before being confirmed by the University Executive Board.

 The University will mark its newly-awarded status as a University of Sanctuary with an online event on Wednesday 16 June at 6.30pm. The event will include the launch of a film which tells the story of how York became a University of Sanctuary for refugees, asylum seekers, human rights defenders and those in need of humanitarian protection. The film will be followed by a round-table discussion. Find out more information on this free event, open to all.

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