Education without borders

York has always been a place that supports sanctuary and social justice

Led by research teams at the University of York and Goldsmiths, University of London, Precarious Trajectories gave a voice to refugees, through personal testimonies, forensic analysis and film.

The project focuses on refugees’ own experiences, from Sicily and Greece to Germany, using film ethnography, audio diaries, and a specially designed app to record experiences and give refugees a chance to tell their stories.

Precarious Trajectories aims to draw attention to the human costs associated with EU and individual member states’ border policies. It demonstrates that the only sure way to prevent further deaths is to provide for safe and legal passage to those seeking sanctuary in Europe from war and conflict.

The research found that making it harder to cross the Mediterranean does not deter people from attempting the journey, despite tragedies such as the shipwreck of 18 April when over 800 people lost their lives. There has, in fact, been a significant increase in migration activity during the course of the project.

“As we have been recording people’s experiences through the project, it has become clear how incredibly important continuing their higher education is to student refugees. This is especially true of those from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, whose studies have been interrupted by conflict”, Dr Simon Parker, the Precarious Trajectories Project Director, tells us.

migrant-crisis-2-768x4322x“Even if they do reach a place of safety, the big challenge for these students is the barrier of having to learn a new language to meet higher education entry requirements. Many want to come to the UK because they already have a good standard of English and can get straight on with finishing or going on to further studies.”

“For those people we spoke to, the University of York’s Equal Access Fund is a huge benefit, making it possible for them to continue their lives and giving them a future.”

“What we are doing through the project and the Fund is not just of academic interest to me, it’s a cause that’s close to my heart. It’s about building on York’s founding values of justice and equality to give these people equal access to an education.”


“The University of York’s Equal Access Fund makes an important contribution to supporting people seeking asylum in the UK. With only vulnerable people allowed through UK borders, we can’t bring in the more educated refugees and migrants who can contribute to our society longer term. Now, thanks to donor support, we can do something. The City of York also has a tradition of providing sanctuary and supporting social justice. There is a strong Quaker tradition, the Centre for Tolerance and Refugee Action York are based here, the Council has welcomed a number of refugee families into the city and we are working to become one of the first Human Rights cities. This all goes hand in hand with our project research, by raising awareness of how we can provide a place of safety.”

Dr Simon Parker, Precarious Trajectories Project Director