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Forcibly Displaced Students in Higher Education


In 2022 the number of forcibly displaced people (FDP) globally surpassed 100 million for the first time. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) aims to enrol 30% of eligible FDPs into HE by 2030. However, only 6% of the world’s eligible FDPs can access Higher Education (HE) currently 

Although an increasing number of UK universities promote the access of FDPs to HE, questions remain over how effectively they can engage, even after admission. Inflexible curricula, cultural differences, resource constraints, and personal and family concerns present formidable learning barriers.  

An international, multidisciplinary, long-term research programme is required to examine how universities in high GDP countries can improve refugees’ HE access. Building on our new working relationships and momentum, this initial research project represents a first step towards establishing that programme. We will use a small-scale research project to network and build relationships with each other. 

Our research question for this project is: ‘how could the British personal tutoring system support forcibly displaced students more effectively?’  FDSs prefer the personalised support of a staff member they can trust, compared to other more formal types of support (Baker et al, 2018). Their relationship with their tutor is important to their academic experience, especially for undergraduates (Schäfer, 2022). Further research is needed, however, on how FDSs view their tutors and how the tutoring system can best support FDSs.  


Project Summary

We will hold focus groups with Forcibly Displaced Students. These will gather FDSs’ experiences of personal tutoring (other topics may be covered to avoid subsequent over-researching). We will also hold focus groups with professional services and academic staff. 

We will subsequently organise a workshop with FDSs, academic and professional university staff. The aims will be (i) to discuss the findings of the focus groups and potential training for personal tutors; and (ii) to build our network by brainstorming new possibilities for joint research and initiatives. 

Two online leaflets will be produced providing guidelines for (i) personal tutors in supporting FDSs more effectively and (ii) professional staff seeking to integrate FDSs needs into training and practice. An academic journal article will also be written. 

We expect this project to produce a strong network of researchers around FDP in HE in Wales and the South-West, and beyond. 


Image credit: University of Edinburgh, Universities of Sanctuary Conference

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter