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WAHED event shows how unis can widen access

To mark World Access to Higher Education Day on November 26, the Association of Commonwealth Universities partnered with King’s College London on a one-day conference to showcase how universities are working to widen access to higher education for refugees and displaced people.

Students and academics shared their personal journeys and experiences of displacement. Photo: Twitter/ ACU

"Supporting access to education lies at the very heart of what the ACU stands for"

With speakers from universities, charity sector organisations, policy and advocacy bodies, discussions at the ‘Journeys to Belonging: what role for higher education?’ conference mapped how interventions at each stage of an individual’s journey are critical to creating this sense of belonging.

“Universities have a critical role to play in… opening up access to education for refugees”

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.

“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,” said Joanna Newman, ACU chief executive and secretary-general.

“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 commonplace.”

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.

“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.”

‘Journeys to Belonging’ followed the ‘Extending the Welcome’ event held at the University of Edinburgh in March 2019.

The outcomes of ‘Journeys to Belonging’ will directly inform the ACU’s new program of work supporting refugees and displaced people, with a new community of practice launching in 2020.

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