Journeys to belonging: what role for higher education?

KCL presentation

Taking place at King’s College London – an ACU member institution – on 26 November 2019, ‘Journeys to belonging’ showcased how universities are working to widen access to higher education for refugees and displaced people.

With speakers from ACU member institutions, sector organisations, policy and advocacy bodies, discussions mapped how interventions at each stage of an individual’s journey are critical to creating this sense of belonging.

The importance of giving space to the voices of those who are directly affected by displacement and conflict was also highlighted, with a panel featuring students and academics from Syria, South Sudan and Uganda who’ve all been supported to continue their education and academic work in the UK.

Expert session groups focused on the importance of holistic support (Refugee Support Network), communities and inclusion (Student Action for Refugees) and blended learning (King’s College London and the Open University), demonstrating the crucial role higher education plays in creating belonging both within university settings, their wider communities and beyond.

Key themes emerging from the day’s discussions were:

  • Engaging beyond the higher education sector
  • Ensuring our language is humane, welcoming and embodies the concept of belonging
  • Focusing on providing psychosocial support
  • Working with local actors and universities to build capacity and co-designing with those affected by displacement

Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, said: ‘Universities have a critical role to play in delivering the SDGs and opening up access to education for refugees, displaced people and other marginalised groups. Thanks to ACU member institutions – like King’s college London – universities are leading the way and delivering tangible solutions that directly support refugees and displaced people – from improving learning outcomes in refugee camps, to providing sanctuary for those who are forcibly displaced

‘Supporting access to education lies at the very heart of what the ACU stands for and through our unique network we will continue to advocate, influence and convene the sector to ensure that those Journeys to Belonging become ever more common place’.

Tania Lima, Director Global Engagement, King’s Worldwide, added: ‘King’s is committed to increasing access to higher education for displaced youth, which is a critical issue for universities across the world. The project that I currently lead at King’s, PADILEIA, funded by DfID, is providing some innovative delivery models in Jordan and Lebanon to increase access, including blended delivery of localised content. To address issues of access here in the UK, King’s provides scholarships to displaced students and academics; we believe that it’s vital that universities develop partnerships to support access initiatives in the regions with the highest number of displaced people’.

The outcomes of ‘Journeys to Belonging’ will directly inform the ACU’s new programme of work supporting refugees and displaced people. The ACU is committed to sharing best practice from across the sector and amplifying this across its network, with a new community of practice launching in 2020 to support this.

Follow the hashtag #JourneysToBelonging to get involved with the conversation.

More information

Organised in partnership with – and generously hosted by – King’s College London (a long-standing ACU member institution), this one-day conference took place in London on World Access to Higher Education Day (26 November 2019). 

View the full Journeys to Belonging programme

King’s College London is actively involved in supporting refugees and displaced people through its Sanctuary and PADILEIA programmes.

‘Journeys to belonging’ follows the ‘Extending the Welcome’ event held at the University of Edinburgh earlier this year, in partnership with the British Council. 

Download the Extending the Welcome report here

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