Among the many asylum and sanctuary seekers and academics seeking refuge are mathematicians and statisticians; they are part of the global mathematical sciences community. However, when they come to the UK they may be unable to work and so feel isolated from the subject they love. They are in personal and intellectual limbo.
Concerned and inspired by this predicament, a group of mathematicians at Oxford university decided to find ways to help these refugees overcome that sense of isolation and make them aware of mathematical science-based activities in the UK, both in research and teaching, and industry. The aim was for them to re-establish an emotional contact with their own mathematical pedigrees and their own identities as qualified mathematicians for however long they remain isolated; and ultimately to enable them to contribute to the social and economic growth of the UK.
What we are doing
The vehicle for doing this was occasional informal online sessions. Initially the team partnered in 2021 with the Oxford charity Asylum Welcome to run two pilot Zoom sessions for mathematically qualified or maths-literate refugees and asylum seekers in the Oxford area. The target audience was people with some degree-level maths or maths related subjects who can find value in presentations and discussions about what is going on within various areas of mathematical sciences.
This initiative built on work elsewhere in Oxford to support asylum seekers and refugees, and in particular Mansfield and Somerville Colleges becoming University Colleges of Sanctuary. Content from Oxford Mathematics Professors Pete Grindrod, Ian Griffiths and Sam Cohen covered a range of mathematical research fields, as well as information about the wider UK mathematical community and some specifics of how people seeking refuge might pursue maths-based careers in the UK, including in data science and statistics, different industry sectors, education and teaching.
The National plan
The project is partnering with the Universities of Sanctuary initiative and Cara (the Council for At-Risk Academics) to identify suitable people and open the sessions to them wherever they may be in the UK. The first more national session was held on 28th February with two more to follow in the Summer. In February we covered topics such as “Opportunities for maths based scientists with UK Corporates”, “Resources to learn about Data Science” and “Industrial applications of Maths Skills”. Judging by the feedback from participants there is real interest and demand; we will use comments we have received to inform the design of future sessions.
How to sign up
If you are a refugee, asylum seeker or academic seeking refuge with a good proficiency (upper intermediate) in conversational English and a maths, or maths-related degree including subjects such as physics, engineering, statistics or computer science, and would like to attend these sessions, please e-mail @email We will then ask you to fill in a short form with a view to registering you for future sessions.
Looking to the future
Oxford Mathematics believes its initiative may well be a first for the UK mathematical sciences community and we aim expand it in time, to include the UK’s professional and learned societies, and involve mathematicians from other Higher Education Institutions. We hope that through working together with Cara and the Universities of Sanctuary initiative other disciplines may well follow suit and adopt this outreach model.
You can watch those involved in the scheme talk about its genesis, progress and possibilities in the video below. If you want to know more or get involved, please email: @email