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Finding Their Way

The Journey to University for Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Young people in Coventry

This research report from the University of Warwick and REUK explores the journey to higher education for refugee and asylum-seeking young people living in Coventry. It is the product of a partnership between Refugee Education UK and the University of Warwick's English and Comparative Literary Studies Department.

The qualitative research study explores the barriers to university facing refugee and asylum-seeking young people in Coventry, and reveals the ways in which these are navigated. It also highlights the role of the University of Warwick in addressing and reducing these barriers for their local community of refugees and asylum seekers. 

This research study demonstrates that, by investing in the investigation and clarification of local barriers to education, universities can work towards establishing clear strategies for addressing those known barriers.

Key findings:

  • Refugee and asylum-seeking young people in Coventry are ambitious and strive towards studying at university. But getting there is rarely straightforward; many are required to embark on a long and difficult journey to realise their HE dreams.

  • The role of mentors, young people’s resilience and determination, and the persistent support from their local community members and organisations are key in helping young people navigate the journey to university.

  • A local university has an important role to play in helping refugee and asylum-seeking young people in their local area progress towards and access university.  This is particularly the case if they partner with local colleges and organisations.

  • Refugees in Coventry can struggle to meet university language requirements.The lack of local academic English language courses means that young people with higher levels of English language skills with the potential to study at university soon are falling through the cracks.  

  • Financial barriers are also significant and many refugee and asylum-seeking people may have few options but to prioritise low-paid jobs that do not make the most of their skills and experiences over pursuing their education dreams.


The research ends by articulating recommendations for the University of Warwick, local FE colleges and voluntary sector organisations, and refugee education experts, to help address the barriers to higher education.

Lived Experiences of Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Children and Young People

Summary & Aims:

This project explores the lived experiences of refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people. This research is conducted in collaboration with the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Centre for Equalities and Inclusion at the ONS.


This research is based on in-depth interviews with young asylum seekers, refugees and migrants living in the UK. The interviews explore their priorities, needs, wellbeing and engagement with services including education, health, housing and leisure. The project uses peer research methodology. Young people with lived experience of being refugees or asylum seekers form part of the research team, contributing towards research design, conducting some of the interviews, and analysing data.

The project began in autumn 2022 and is envisaged to complete in spring 2023.

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