Refugee-background learners resources

Ngā rauemi ako takenga rerenga

Last updated 28 February 2024
Last updated 28 February 2024

Resources and advice you can use to help meet the needs and aspirations of refugee-background learners.

Giving effect to the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES)

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) wants to ensure tertiary education organisations (TEOs) can support refugee-background learners so they achieve better outcomes throughout their education journey. Improving outcomes for refugee-background learners will help TEOs give effect to the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) – specifically Objective Two: Barrier-free access.

Understanding your learners

Fundamental to the Ōritetanga learner success approach is TEOs understanding all their learners and their needs and aspirations. The TEC’s refugee-background learners guide aims to provide support and advice to TEOs around how to support these learners.

Guide for TEOs on supporting refugee-background learners

Refugee-background (RB) learners are learners who have entered, or are resident in, Aotearoa New Zealand as a result of one of six diverse pathways:

  • the UNHCR Quota Programme
  • refugee and protection status (claim for asylum)
  • family reunification (Refugee Family Support Category)
  • Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship (CORS)
  • descent from former refugees, and
  • other migrant pathways.

We encourage all TEOs to increase their understanding and support of refugee-background learners, so these learners can successfully enter and complete their education. We have developed the following guide to support TEOs on this journey.

Best Practice Guidelines to Support Refugee-Background Tertiary Learners in Aotearoa New Zealand (PDF 3 MB)

This guide was informed by a comprehensive independent research report which provided the basis for the guide content. An external link to this report will be provided when it's available.

Key points from the Guide

The term “refugee-background” recognises any person who has entered, or is resident in, Aotearoa New Zealand as a result of one of six diverse pathways – see above.

Given this diversity, we recommend adopting a broad definition of refugee-background learner, in order not to exclude any groups from targeted institutional provisioning and support.

This diversity can also make it challenging to identify the characteristics of RB learners. However, research into culturally and linguistically diverse learners, including those from refugee-backgrounds, has shown that RB learners often:

  • are multilingual
  • have experienced disruptions to their education
  • come from low socio-economic backgrounds
  • have multiple commitments
  • have diverse identities
  • have experienced trauma
  • have experienced discrimination, and
  • are motivated, resourceful and resilient.

To foster appropriate and responsive TEO policy and implementation frameworks, keep these characteristics in mind, and work with RB learners in a partnership model to design your supports.

Consider supports across the following areas:

  • Pre-access: outreach and relationship building
  • Access: pathways and admission
  • Participation: transition, engagement and progression
  • Attainment: completion and graduation
  • Transitions out: graduate destinations.

These are detailed in the guidelines, which are designed for a range of users within a TEO. Ideally senior leaders and managers will read all guidelines, but individual staff may focus in on the section, area or phase most relevant to their responsibilities and work programmes.

New Zealand organisations

Aotearoa New Zealand National Tertiary Network to Support Refugee Background Students – Facebook
A network of people working in tertiary and other organisations.

Refugees as Survivors New Zealand
RASNZ offers mental health and wellbeing services for people from refugee backgrounds living in Aotearoa.

New Zealand National Refugee Youth Council – Facebook
The NZNRYC was established in 2013 by refugee youth to advocate for, engage and support refugee youth.

Refugee background students – Ministry of Education
Senior advisers for Refugee and Migrant Support are based in Ministry regional offices in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland. The senior advisers liaise between refugee communities, agencies and schools to help with education and resettlement.

Refugee and protection – Immigration New Zealand
The Refugee and Protection Unit promotes the successful resettlement of refugees in NZ. As part of New Zealand’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy they work with government and international agencies to help refugees who arrive here under the quota.

New Zealand National Refugee Association
An association that promotes dialogue, collaboration, information exchange and advocacy on issues of key concern.

Belong Aotearoa
Belong Aotearoa drives innovation to improve newcomer settlement and integration.

ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum
A grassroots non-governmental organisation (NGO) walking alongside 18+ refugee-background communities in the greater Wellington region.

Christchurch Resettlement Services
CRS exists to support people from refugee and migrant backgrounds living in Ōtautahi/Christchurch to settle successfully in Aotearoa/New Zealand by providing a range of professional services that build on strengths to promote wellbeing and resilience.

HOST International Aotearoa New Zealand
HOST (Humanitarian Organisation for Settlement and Transition) International Aotearoa New Zealand is a New Zealand charity that collaborates with communities on solutions to support displaced people on their journey to permanent protection.

Supporting refugees – New Zealand Red Cross
NZ Red Cross supports people facing life in a completely new country where they may know little of the language, the culture and the way we live and work. Their Pathways to Settlement and Pathways to Employment and other programmes help people navigate life in their new community.

ISANA NZ (International Education Association Aotearoa)
ISANA NZ provide professional development materials and guidance for those working with international learners at all levels of the education system. Their Capability Toolkit and Training modules are designed to help international education staff provide the best possible support for their students.

New Zealand Research

Associate Professor Vivienne Anderson, Dr Alejandra Ortiz-Ayala, Sayedali (Ali) Mostolizadeh, Anna Burgin, Dr Jo Oranje, Amber FraserSmith, Pip Laufiso, Jarrah Cooke, and Glenda Atkins. Refugee-background students in Aotearoa: Supporting successful secondary to tertiary education transitions, 2023

A participatory action research project working with refugee-background students to identify and enact practices that promote their capacity to navigate and negotiate the secondary-tertiary education border.