Refugee inclusion in higher education: the nexus of barriers and the digital

  • Gallagher, M. (Speaker)
  • Dr Rovincer Najjuma (Speaker)
  • Dr Rovincer Najjuma (Speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This presentation will explore a research project (2020-2022) designed to surface the lived experiences and challenges refugee students face in accessing and participating in higher education in Uganda. The project sought to identify, in their own words, what refugees and those who worked with them in universities thought of the barriers and opportunities in higher education, what types of social capital was needed to succeed, and what role digital learning had in this process. Data were generated through desk research identifying policy language, a survey and 25 semi-structured interviews with students and staff at universities and staff at support organisations.
Findings surface how institutional policy can prohibitively frame the refugee experience. Non-academic structures, such as clubs and social networks designed to meet the students’ social welfare, are critical in offsetting these framings. The increasing use of digital technologies for refugee inclusion in higher education is problematic insofar as it complicates this move between formal institutional policy and non-academic structures. In this presentation, we will note the subtle tensions that emerge from the expectations of participation in university life, and Ugandan life more broadly, amidst digital structures that complicate inclusion.
Findings have significant relevance to all higher education institutions in their efforts at refugee inclusion, but educational inclusion for traditionally marginalised groups more broadly. We argue it is critical to interrogate existing institutional policy and practice, to note the lived accounts of these students through these institutional structures, and to be mindful of the power asymmetries that may exist in digital learning.
PeriodNov 2023
Event titleSERA Conference 2023: Meeting global and local challenges through interdisciplinary partnerships and collaborations in education
Event typeConference
LocationMusselburgh, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • digital education
  • refugee education
  • SDGs
  • Uganda