STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is the national network of students building a more understanding and just society where refugees are welcomed and can thrive in the UK.

Our student groups based in colleges and universities and a central team of experts, work together at a number of levels to bring about lasting change. We:

  • Volunteer locally working directly with refugees, building understanding and connections
  • Campaign nationally for policy change and equal access to higher education for refugees
  • Learn about refugee protection and the asylum journey in the UK with experts and peers

Our impact

In 2022-23:

The STAR student network

39 STAR groups – 7 new groups – in 30 towns and cities run by 213 STAR leaders with 2005 STAR group members and a reach of 21876 on social media.

Training and empowering the network

  • 20 training sessions delivered to 284 STAR student leaders and members.

  • 84 one to one support meetings with student leaders – first in person training & networking day since 2019!


  • 741 refugees supported by 323 student volunteers through 30 volunteering projects in partnership with 21 local organisations – these included English conversation clubs, women’s groups, kids’ homework clubs, book clubs, bike projects, film nights, university open days and more.  22 of these projects were student volunteer-led.


  • 109 campaign activities with over 3200 participants. Major focus was fighting the anti-refugee laws, including a joint petition with City of Sanctuary, Voices Network & Solidaritee for university students and staff who opposed the Illegal Migration Bill which we handed into Downing Street. 

  • Local campaign – Durham STARs successful campaign against Mitie Group Plc was a highlight. Mitie runs the local immigration detention centre and has contracts with Durham University. After lots of awareness raising and an open letter with 1129 signatures the university committed to end contracts with Mitie.

Educating and changing minds

  • 9697 attendees at 345 events organised by STAR groups.

Access to University

  • 88 universities now have scholarships – we provided guidance to 18 institutions to help them improve existing scholarships or plan new ones and delivered 5 information and networking events for 243 university staff

  • Equal Access Activists (lived experience campaigners) – worked on a new strategy for the campaign, presented about access to university at 8 events & helped develop the new Displaced Students Opportunities website.

  • 335 applicants and students from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds were provided with individual signposting & advice by the STAR team and 777 attended 7 online information events.

  • 1 new website launched – Displaced Student Opportunities UK – a partnership with REUK and City of Sanctuary!

Our vision
  • Our vision is a society where refugees are welcomed and can thrive as equal members of the community.

Our history
  • In 1992, students at the University of Nottingham were inspired by the idea of a society that welcomed refugees – so they decided to create one. Andy Davies (then a politics student, now Channel 4 home affairs correspondent) approached the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, pitching the idea of a network of student societies aimed at supporting refugees.

  • Andy was asked to set up a pilot scheme, and in 1994, the first STAR group was set up, with support from UNHCR and the British Refugee Council. Then-social policy student Elly Hargreave became a co-founder of STAR, growing the movement with groups in London and Edinburgh established by 1996. 

  • Elly went on to found STAR as a registered charity in 1999 to support a national network of students campaigning, volunteering, and learning together. In 2008, the launch of our Equal Access campaign marked the start of our work improving pathways into higher education for refugees. Today, our network of informed and committed students bring about lasting change by volunteering locally with refugees, campaigning nationally for policy change, and learning about refugee protection in the UK with experts and peers.

With thanks to our funders
Esmee Fairbairn Foundation logo
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