King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Coming to London

Later refugees

photograph of man in a suit jacket wearing spectacles with a cross on the lapel Rev Vincent Okot, 1970sHungary

King's students provided an enthusiastic welcome to refugees from the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Donnington Hall was prepared as a reception centre and the accommodation, food, English classes, studies and employment of a dozen or so refugees organised by the Students' Union.


Refugees from Idi Amin's terror in Uganda fled to King's in the 1970s. The Rev Vincent Okot remembers fondly his welcome at the College, especially contact with a broad spectrum of nationalities, 'Scots, Irish men, English men and women, German, French, Italians, Welsh, as well as Americans…I love King's staff as well as students' Rev Okot promised that, 'any time I am in Europe I shall make every effort to call in King's to see Reggie!' and presented two ceremonial Acholi 'Tong Alwiri' spears to the Faculty of Theology as a symbol of the unity between Uganda and the College.

South Africa

King's has a particularly distinguished record of offering opportunities to South Africans. These have included refugees from the apartheid regime.

South Africans to study at King's have included the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Winston Ndungane, the Bishop of Cape Town, Christopher Gregorowski, Bishop Godfrey Ashby, Helen Joseph and the Nobel Prize winner, Desmond Tutu.

Desmond Tutu was a student of theology at King's between 1962 and 1966. He recalls his time at the College with great fondness and remembers especially his surprise at being treated with respect by British police officers when asking directions on his arrival, in contrast to the treatment he expected from police in his native South Africa.

Such was the delight and surprise of Tutu and his wife at this that they then went on to ask the directions from the police just for the fun of it!

The retired Archbishop also recalls an incident at the time of his arrival at King's when in a bank he was pushed out of the queue by another man. So used was he to this sort of treatment by some white people in South Africa, that he allowed the man to pass. Once again, he was delighted when the cashier sent the interloper to the back and restored Tutu to his rightful place at the head of the queue.

Desmond Tutu was Visiting Professor of Post Conflict Societies at King's in the spring term of 2004 and remains a Fellow of King's College.

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