Traversing the terrain of higher education: experiences of refugee youth on the inside
Western Sydney University
Published in International Journal of Inclusive Education
This paper is based on a qualitative research study conducted across urban and regional Australian universities. The aim of the project was to investigate the enablers and constraints faced by refugee background students transitioning from high school to university. A refugee is defined as a person who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence [UNHCR(2016). “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2016.” Accessed January 2019. http://www.refworld.org/docid/594aa38e0.html]. Studies on refugee background students in school contexts have been prolific but research of this population in higher education is still embryonic. This can be attributed to the fact that many refugee background students do not attain the necessary skills required for access to, and participation in, tertiary education in spite of their high aspirations for a university qualification. The paper will show, through the narratives of four refugee background university students that transition at university needs to be reconceptualised as holistic, extending beyond classroom walls and building on the resilience and assets they bring to learning. This is significant because it draws attention to the paradoxical relationship between the rights-based vision that many universities purport to have for their diverse student cohorts and the realities that refugee youth face at university on a daily basis.