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Refugee and Asylum Seeker Access

Examining the barriers to higher education for Coventry-based young refugees and asylum seekers.

This research project identified strategies for the University of Warwick to address and reduce these barriers. Led by Dr Ursula Clayton from English and Comparative Literary Studies, the project sought to contribute to meaningful dialogue around peer- and community-led research approaches and partnerships between academia and voluntary sector organisations.

What are the barriers to accessing higher education?

For refugees, journeys to higher education have been described as long and difficult.

Other barriers include not meeting the University's standard of English language, or failing to meet entry requirements.

Many find that their aspirations are stifled due to their need to prioritise work over study, plus their general inability to afford the cost of going to university.

Longer term barriers include...

  • Missing or inaccurate information

  • Disruptions to, or lack of, previous education experiences

  • Instability and isolation

  • Asylum system and procedures

Concluding list of recommendations

  • Work in partnership with charities, such as REUK, to set up an on-campus course to provide advanced English language support, including on academic study skills, for refugee and asylum-seeking young people with higher levels of language skills. This could include peer-to-peer mentoring aspects, facilitating an on-campus welcome and a ‘taster’ of university life, alongside direct support with university applications and personal statements.

  • Follow the example of a number of higher education institutes to use discretion to charge all migrant applicants the equivalent of home fees.

  • Work in partnership with refugee education experts to audit the Sanctuary Scholarship process, producing concrete recommendations for strengthening the model, including for reaching local refugees and asylum seekers.

  • In partnership with local charities, invest in regular and thorough training and guidance for admissions staff on access to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Encourage existing students to become involved with charity organisations or other support services that facilitate mentoring for local refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Consider setting up a collaboration with other city services to create a referrals scheme where clients can be passed onto university if ready for higher education, and for the university to have staff ready and informed to facilitate case-specific conversations with clients.

Image credit: Hollis Photography