STAR’s Equal Access Activists are campaigners with lived experience of accessing higher education while seeking asylum or with an insecure immigration status.
Their expertise guides the Equal Access campaign, ensuring that we achieve the changes that are really needed. In the past year, they have:
- spoken at international and national conferences;
- organised workshops to share advice and experiences to help others on their journey to higher education;
- provided feedback to institutions like UCAS and the Student Loans Company;
- launched a new Equal Access Network to provide peer-to-peer support for current and aspiring students from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds.
My name is AbdulRahman and I am an Aeronautical Engineering Graduate from the University of Salford in Manchester. When I first wanted to get into higher education, the first obstacle I faced was that I actually did not know how to apply or what qualifications were required. After overcoming the obstacles and managing to get into university, I decided to join STAR as an Equal Access Activist to help refugees and sanctuary seekers achieve their dreams and reach their ambitions. I would never want anyone to suffer the same way I did.
My name is Daniel and I’m a graduate in Public Health and Psychology. I was able to go to university because of a sanctuary award scholarship. Before then, I did not have access to student finance and felt educationally stranded. My experience is one example of how individuals can thrive if they are given the chance to study. However, various barriers to higher education remain and many people are left stranded. I work with City of Sanctuary, STAR and the Equal Access Network to increase access to higher education because I believe we are creating wide-scale change towards equality.
My name is Maryam, I am currently working at City of Sanctuary UK – a charity that builds a movement of welcome and safety for people with asylum and refugee backgrounds. I applied to university as an asylum seeker through a sanctuary scholarship. STAR was the first student group I joined at university. They made me feel welcome, included, and they were passionate about the Equal Access campaign. I learnt more about the campaign and spoke to universities about the barriers we face and I am so excited about the Equal Access Network. Through this network, I want to help students realise that despite the barriers, they can access university and they can succeed.
Hello, Sawubona! My name is Pearlgin. This is my first year studying at Birkbeck University, currently reading Life Sciences for Subjects Allied to Medicine. I am profoundly passionate about the ecosystem, marine life and human immunity and creating a healthy climate paradigm shift through business and scientific research tools. I aspire to be a virologist and immunologist. While studying at college in London I was told, ‘Don’t dream too much unless you gain status, then you can dream.’ Optimistic, I approached various colleges determined to gain access to higher education. Now, the Compass Project (scholarship) facilitates my financial support after prolonged funding impediments. My motto is ‘I Beam Academic Rationale, Rectify Institutional Ethos, Revive Solidarity (BARRIERS)’. As an Equal Access Activist, I enjoy sharing my experience in a space that promotes inclusion and diversity for all.
My name is Tamana and I’m currently completing an MSc in NGO and Development Management at the University of East London. Education has always been the first and the most paramount aspect of my life. When I migrated to the UK, I just wanted to continue my education regardless of my immigration status. Many people told me that it was not possible to continue higher education as an asylum seeker due to the multiple barriers that asylum seekers and refugees face in the UK. I feel very fortunate to have overcome these barriers. Thus, I joined the STAR Equal Access Network to spread awareness and campaign for basic human rights (education) for the most vulnerable people in the UK.
My name is Waleed and I am completing a Postgraduate Certificate of Management at Birkbeck University. I was confused about how to start my academic life when I arrived in the UK in September 2019 – until I found the STAR website, which was the first key to my higher education. STAR helped me to understand how to get into university with full awareness about the requirements and qualifications. Then I decided to join STAR as an Equal Access Activist to help refugees and sanctuary seekers achieve their dreams and reach their ambitions. I would love to be helpful through my role so that asylum seekers and refugees can overcome any obstacles on their academic journey.
My name is Michael, I am currently in my third year studying BS Psychosocial Studies at Goldsmiths University on a Sanctuary Scholarship. I am an expert by experience on Immigration detention in the UK, a facilitator, and a campaigner for migrants’ rights. Having left school at the age of 15 and faced with numerous challenges, including destitution and losing two and half years of my life in immigration detention, education was the last thing on my mind, but it was education that saved my life and gave me hope. Being given a scholarship and accepted into university was like the appearance of a candle, burning bright to lead me out of darkness. The access to education I received has made me stronger, hungrier, and more confident as a person, and I want to motivate others and hold a torch for others to see the light of possibilities. I decided to join STAR as an Equal Access Activist to help spread awareness and promote human rights and human dignity. As a first-hand experience of access to education I have a duty to myself and society to share my experience and help forge a cohesive link between institutions and the migrant communities because the power given to one individual to realise and achieve their dreams has the potential to lift society out of darkness.
Venita is a Common Law and Politics student at the University of Glasgow. Fleeing political persecution in her home city and having to drop out of her politics degree two years ago, Venita has never given up on her pursuit of education despite barriers. She eventually succeeded to secure a full scholarship from the University of Glasgow to continue her academic pursuits. Realising how life-changing higher education can be to one’s life, she continues to promote equal access for people from asylum-seeking backgrounds as an equal access activist at Student Action for Refugees (STAR). Outside her studies, Venita also commits her time to raise awareness for the Hong Kong civic rights situation, coordinating integration work for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) new immigrants and providing professional immigration advice and support to the new emerging Hong Kong asylum-seeking community in the UK.
My name is Abdullah and I became an Equal Access Activist in 2022. I’m an asylum seeker and currently trying to get my pharmacy certificate recognised and access a fast-track medicine course. I’m getting experience through STAR and trying to help anyone to overcome the challenges that I’m facing now.