22 SES 11 A, Accessibility and Choices in Higher Education
Paper/Ignite Talk Session
Internationalization has received a broad interest of scholars and policy makers over the last three decades. Particularly International Student Mobility (ISM) has been widely investigated by educational researchers. As a result, a significant body of knowledge has emerged on the ISM documenting the size, direction, and rationale of mobility around the globe (e.g., Kondakci, Bedenlier & Zawacki-Richter, 2018; Brooks and Waters, 2011; Chen and Barnett 2000; Barnett et al. 2016; Knight, 2004). However, the dominant body of research on ISM document the state of the conventional students. In other words, the dominant ISM research document the students who follow the conventional procedures in moving from one country to another for study abroad. Recently, with the growth of forced displacements around the world, a large body of student population leave their home countries and move to other countries in search of safety and stable economic and social life (IOM, 2018; OECD, 2016). It is estimated that around 3.3% of the total population, which refers to approximately 244 million, is migrating from one part of the World to the other (IOM, 2018). This migration follows the path from economically under developed and context of political clashes towards economically more developed and safer contexts (IOM, 2018). A significant number of these people are forced to move. As a result, the World is obliged to provide physical and social security particularly to people who are forced to leave their countries of origin.
Although international migration does not necessarily bring negative consequences to the home and destination countries (IOM, 2018), “forced migration” takes serious tool on the migrants themselves, home country and destination country. Particularly the forced displacement resulting from political conflicts, persecution, environmental degradation and insecurity leads to failure in producing the desired benefits for countries and individuals. Negative perception of migrants in host countries, negative propaganda of populist politics, and limited reach to services perpetuate stigmatization of the forced immigrants. Limited resources, stigmatization and lack of access to public services marginalize the immigrants and eliminates contribution of the immigrants to the host society.
As argued by several scholars education has a central role in mitigating the impact of displacement (Aras & Yasun, 2016; Arar & Haj-Yehia, 2016; Erden, 2017; Sinclair, 2001). Particularly higher education broaden the chances of integration to the host country. However, the access of forced displacement refers to a different practice of integrating international students into higher education. When analyzed closely, it can be seen that the forced migrants confront with several challenges in their access to higher education around the globe (Arar et al., 2019; Waite & Swisher, 2019; Hilliard, 2019).Therefore, investigating the experiences of refuges and migrants, who form a group of atypical international students, and revealing their experiences before their access to higher education and during their study is essential for widening their access to higher education and ensuring a stable and secure life. Based on these arguments, the purpose of this study is to investigate the experience of Syrian Refuge Students’ challenges in their access to higher education and their experiences during their higher education study.
This study is designed as a phenomenological study. Phenomenological design provides an essence of people’s conceptual world by understanding what meaning they attribute to their experiences (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007). Besides, this design is known to be a potent methodology when revealing the commonalities among a group of people who are exposed to the same phenomenon. Based on the reality created from the meaning of experiences (Greene, 1978 as cited in Bogdan & Biklen, 2007), this study focused on refugee students’ lived experiences, challenges and perceptions of higher education and eventually reveal the “phenomena of being a refugee student in higher education” through in-depth interviews. In this study, sample constituting 26 Syrian migrants who study at a university located in the Eastern part of Turkey. Studying in different fields, the students were selected by snowball sampling technique of purposive sampling in which researchers used the communication network among Syrian migrant to reach the migrant. Of the students, seven study economics and education, five study engineering and the other study in various fields such as arts, theology and medicine. Students’ age range from 19 to 28. Sixteen of the participants are male and 10 are female. Data were collected through semi-structured interview designed by the researchers. The interview composed of twenty questions, which are grouped under four sections including demographic information, challenges students face in access to higher education, evaluation of Turkish higher education and factors affecting their academic achievement. Before collecting data, permission is received from both the Ethical Review Committee and the University. Each interview lasts approximately 30 minutes and all of the interview sessions are recorded and transcribed verbatim. Content analysis approach is utilized to identify the main concepts that shape the higher education experiences of Syrian students. During data analysis, Miles and Huberman’s model (1994)- data reduction, verification and display is applied. First, researchers listened and transcribed the recordings verbatim that provide a similarity with the data. Researchers closely read the transcriptions in line with the research questions. Second, codes are identified for each interview and initial code list is prepared by discussing the similarities and differences among researchers’ coding. Third, initial codes are grouped under larger themes and categories to unite the perceptions of Syrian students. Finally, these codes, themes and categories are used to describe the higher education experiences of students regarding research questions.
Sumary of the results The results are presented under six main categories in order to describe the experiences and challenges of Syrian migrants; reasons of choosing Turkey, challenges, needs of the students, facilities, teaching practice and gaps in the policy. As for reasons of choosing Turkey, there are push and pull factors. In relation to push factors, participants emphasize the war that forces them to leave their country. They indicate that, first they stayed in their country yet, the ongoing chaotic and unsecure environment in their country, destruction of their homes and schools push them to make a choice: to fight or to leave. Considering pull factors, all participants highlight the geographic proximity and cultural brotherhood with Turkey as the main pulling factor to Turkey. Furthermore, higher education provides them an opportunity for scholarship, other career options, finding a job and a diploma that will be useful in their country, hopefully in Turkey and other European countries as participants indicate. Brief discussion and conclusions The data suggest that the forced displacement confront with several challenges in their access to and survival in higher education. Although, internationalization in higher education provide several lenses to understand this unique pattern of mobility for higher education, it is not adequate in to grasp the challenges they confront with and respond to these challenges. When the challenges of the participants are considered, it can be seen that these challenges are dispersed are individual, social, institutional and systemic levels. However, we conclude that addressing these challenges require a consistent policy toward refuges and migrants in the first place.
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