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Life, learning and university: An inquiry into refugee participation in UK higher education

Bowen, Andrina Louise


Andrina Louise Bowen



Life, learning and university: an inquiry into refugee participation in UK higher education.

Movement, stasis, and the management of displacement underpin this thesis on refugee participation in UK higher education. Drawing on accounts from mature students of their experience of going to university in England and Wales, the study examines the intersection of higher education and migration in contemporary British society. The research was informed by the ethics and principles of participatory research methodologies, and framed by the aim to explore the relationship between students’ lived experience of asylum in the UK and their engagement in higher education. Analysis focuses on five individual accounts of participation in undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and explores how the sites and spaces of higher education interplayed with personal and political identifications. Bourdieu’s (1977, 1986) field theory is used to explore refugee negotiation of the UK national field and the field of higher education. Post colonial and post structural theoretical perspectives are also applied to analyse questions of identity and identifications.

The social and educational policies that relate to refugee students in the UK continue to be in a state of flux, and these directly impact on HE participation. Examining the experiences of refugees with both permanent and impermanent forms of leave to remain in the UK, the thesis shows the ways in which participants valued their studies beyond an instrumental purpose for social mobility in the UK. Rather, I suggest that participants engaged in higher education to manage both psychic and physical displacements. Moreover, the students’ engagement in the field of higher education could be seen to produce further displacements, undermining the extent to which participating in university is understood as a means to facilitate social and cultural integration.


Bowen, A. L. (2014). Life, learning and university: An inquiry into refugee participation in UK higher education. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Apr 1, 2014
Keywords refugee, asylum seeker, education, university, participation


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