Refugees access to higher education: Students' perspectives
Info about event
The aim of this webinar series is to open a space for students, practioners and researchers to
engage together in issues related to the inclusion of students with a refugee background into
higher education (HE) structures. What brings the participants together is their wish to understand
further the dynamics at play, not only the obstacles but also the opportunities in widening access,
from multiple perspectives. We believe a diversity of voices should be heard to support the idea
that higher education can provide a range of answers and opportunities for people undergoing
forced migration in all their diversity; and to support further action to improve access to HE. And
we decided that the first voices that should be heard is that of the students themselves.
In this 5th session of our webinar series, former students with a refugee background, Cavid
Nabiyev and Malaz Safarjalani, were invited to share their experience and perspectives as
students on inclusion and communities.
Cavid Nabiyev (original: Cavid Nəbiyev) is a diversity rights defender from Azerbaijan. The
preferred pronoun is [O]. Since 2012, Cavid works towards the improvement of the human rights
of the LGBTI persons in Azerbaijan. O is an International Advocacy officer at Nafas LGBT
Azerbaijan Alliance focused mainly on the UN’s human rights and development mechanisms. In
2016, O was awarded by the British Council as a global LGBTI rights influencer. Cavid is OLIve
scholar, and currently studying for a master’s degree in Human Rights at the Central European
University. Cavid’s research topic (for thesis) is “Claiming rights and justice for LGBTIs in the
Malaz Safarjalani studied Business in Damascus, then European Economic Integration in
College of Europe Bruges. He subsequently consulted for the EU delegation in Syria on study to
design Higher Education access response mechanism. He joined Jamiya Project in 2016, which
aims to create Blended Open Online Courses. After gaining experience in tech startups, Malaz
currently works as a Finance Officer for Out of the Box International which consults on
Erasmus+ projects for youth and micro businesses.
Cavid and Malaz’s very insightful contributions can be analyzed through the lens of intersection.
Their talks showed the complexities of being a refugee student, which cannot be reduced to
merely “being a refugee” and “being a student.” To help students with a refugee or forced
migration background to access, navigate and complete higher education studies successfully,
one has to take this complexity into account and go beyond reductive labelling. Both talks pointed to the fact that HE policies intersect at different levels with social policies, and prevent
students from experiencing smooth higher education pathways. The geopolitical context also
frames access to HE, in defining which type of education is accessible to whom, where and at
Both presentations and the following discussions pointed to the fact that the people who can
and do make a difference in supporting students usually go beyond any limited categorization
and embrace the students’ full complexity, wealth and depth as individuals. Also mentioned was
the need to create safe spaces which make it possible for individuals to engage fully with
diverse academic and non-academic communities, and to contribute actively to higher
education programmes as full agents of their own educational pathways.