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Refugees of war

Sheet listing names and nationality of a group of students given their country of origin. Refugee students from Belgium, 1914-1915The experiences of refugees to King's College have often been mixed, combining gratitude to their hosts with trepidation at arriving in a foreign land at short notice and concern for the fate of loved ones possibly left behind in occupied territory.

At the beginning of the First World War, some 200,000 Belgian and other refugees fled to Britain. The University of London passed special regulations to allow students from Allied nations to study for degrees in the capital and dozens took advantage of the opportunity.

The Jewish War Refugees Committee assisted exiled Jewish students fleeing occupied Belgium. These were usually Russians resident in the universities of Liege or Ghent at the outbreak of war.

Typically, King's played host to between twenty five and as many as seventy five mainly trainee doctors and engineers, although the turnover was high as they left to undertake war service.

Letter from the police requiring Egyptians students to register Letter from the police requiring Egyptians students to register, 10 Nov 1914 Egyptian students, who on average numbered about twenty five, were closely supervised under the terms of the Aliens Restriction Order for fear that undercover Turkish agents might seek to infiltrate the College (their homeland had become a British protectorate at the beginning of the First World War but had hitherto been under nominal Ottoman sovereignty).

They were expected to report to a police station to register their residence and remained under the oversight of the Egyptian Educational Mission in England.

Refugees of countries under enemy occupation generally were wholly or partially exempted from paying fees.

They therefore constituted a considerable financial and administrative burden on the College since academic references had to be obtained and remedial English language tuition organised. Indeed, such were the numbers of students that many had to be turned away due to overcrowding in classes.

Differences in the curricula between King's and the students' home universities also caused problems and the welfare and discipline of the students was a particular concern: one was even discovered to be making a living on the side as a member of a Russian ballet company.

The entry of the United States into the war and the end of hostilities saw the arrival of one hundred and fifty US servicemen at the University of London under the auspices of the Army Educational Commission.

These included men of all different ages, classes and colours and reinforced the cosmopolitan feel the College had acquired during the war.

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