Refugees in higher education: Exploring narratives of postgraduate refugee background students through capability approach

Year: 2019

Author: Ali, Muhammad

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Participation of marginalised and underrepresented students in higher education is getting increasing attention in the higher education discourse in many countries including Australia. Australia has been accepting, for decades, a significant number of refugees from different regions. A substantial number of young people are also part of the arriving refugees who are at the age of attending higher education. Refugees being a marginalised community in various ways, the importance of their participation in higher education is recognised for their resettlement, empowerment and social integration.

Despite the recognition of the significance of participation of refugees in higher education, studies have shown that because of the complexity of their background and settlement process, refugee background students face various barriers in participating in higher education. Participation in higher education is a complex process and to understand this complexity, it requires to explore the narratives of how the students navigate and interact with the higher education practices.

This is a proposed study to explore how postgraduate refugee students tell the stories of their participation in Australian higher education. Drawing on capability approach (Sen, 2001, 1992) as theoretical framework, this study will investigate how postgraduate refugee background students narrate their experience of navigating of and interacting with the higher education practices and structures. Applying Amartya Sen’s (2001, 1992) capability approach, this study will provide new insights into how refugee students navigate and interact with the higher education practices and how Australian higher education practices expand/limit the opportunities for and enhances the well-being of refugee students. The study employs narrative inquiry to explore the experiences of the refugee background students using interviews as its primary data collection method. The study is in progress and it is proposed that the findings of this investigation will contribute to the limited literature on experiences of postgraduate refugee background students in higher education.

This presentation will demonstrate how we can use Capability Approach (CA) as a theoretical framework in the area of refuges education. This paper will discuss how capability approach as theoretical framework and narrative inquiry research method is helpful in exploring the stories of refugee background students about their participation in higher education.