Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-zdfhw Total loading time: 0.955 Render date: 2022-08-10T06:24:30.961Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Chapter 18 - Building Ethical Relationships through the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees Project in Dadaab, Kenya

from Part III - Confronting Marginalisation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2020

Jacqueline Bhabha
Harvard University, Massachusetts
Wenona Giles
York University, Toronto
Faraaz Mahomed
FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
Get access


In this chapter we reflect on the experiences and knowledge gained by instructors and administrators within the first five years of the Borderless Higher Education Project for Refugees (BHER) in Dadaab, Kenya. We are interested in the ethical reshaping of institutional and pedagogical praxis and use and develop the term ‘equity failure’ to refer to moments that reveal gaps in the foundations and planning for equity within the project. These gaps make evident how the work put towards developing ethical relationships does not always enable equity. ‘Equity failure’, therefore, is the metaphor we adopt to point to the productive challenges brought about by the continuous reencounters between different worldviews, positionalities and, as well, the logistical challenges of coordinating higher education in a context rife with many reproducing marginalisations and that play out in a variety of ways. The chapter begins by detailing the history of the BHER project. This is followed by a discussion of two project spaces where issues related to the tuition-free aspects of the BHER initiative and classroom discussions about the construction of identity and forced migration are raised. We conclude by reiterating the importance of learning from equity failure to engender more ethical relationships within North–South partnerships that may unintentionally replicate power and knowledge disparities.

A Better Future
The Role of Higher Education for Displaced and Marginalised People
, pp. 407 - 426
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Baud, I. (2002). North-South Partnerships in Development Research: An Institutional Approach. International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, 1(3), 153170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) (2019). About BHER. Retrieved 2 February 2019, from Scholar
Chernikova, E. (2011). Shoulder to Shoulder or Face to Face? Canada’s University-Civil Society Collaborations on Research and Knowledge for International Development. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.Google Scholar
Choi, J. A. (2006). Doing Poststructural Ethnography in the Life History of Dropouts in South Korea: Methodological Ruminations on Subjectivity, Positionality and Reflexivity. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19(4), 435453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dippo, D., Orgocka, A., & Giles, W. (2013). Feasibility Study Report: Reaching Higher: The Provision of Higher Education for Long Term Refugees in the Dadaab Camps, Kenya. 14 April 2014, Scholar
Freire, P. (2000 [1970]). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
Giles, W. (2018). The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees Project: Enabling Refugee and Local Kenyan Students in Dadaab to Transition to University Education. Journal on Education in Emergencies, 4(1), 164184.Google Scholar
Giles, W., & Dippo, D. (2019). Transitions from Knowledge Networked to Knowledge Engaged: Ethical Tensions and Dilemmas from the Global to the Local. In McGrath, S., & Young, J. (eds.), Ethical Networking for Research and Practice: Reflections on the Refugee Research Network. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
Giles, W., & Orgocka, A. (2018). Adolescents in Protracted Refugee Situations: The Case of Dadaab. In Bhabha, J., Senovilla Hernandez, D., & Kanics, J. (eds.), Research Handbook on Migration and Childhood. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hyndman, J., & Giles, W. (2017). Refugees in Extended Exile: Living on the Edge. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hynie, M., McGrath, S., Young, J. E., & Banerjee, P. (2014). Negotiations of Engaged Scholarship and Equity through a Global Network of Refugee Scholars. Scholarly and Research Communications, 5(3), 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs-Huey, L. (2002). The Natives are Gazing and Talking Back: Reviewing the Problematics of Positionality, Voice and Accountability among ‘Native’ Anthropologists. American Anthropologist, 104(3), 791804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jazeel, T., & McFarlane, C. (2007). Responsible Learning: Cultures of Knowledge Production and the North–South Divide. Antipode, 39(5), 781789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGrath, S., & Young, J. (eds.). (2019). Ethical Networking for Research and Practice: Reflections on the Refugee Research Network. Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
Mezirow, J. (1995). Transformation Theory of Adult Learning. In Welton, M. R. (ed.), Defense of the Lifeworld. New York: SUNY.Google Scholar
Murphy, P. (2012). Hunger for Education on the Edge of the Planet. Toronto. (video)Google Scholar
Murphy, P. (2016). Borderless Higher Education: Bringing Higher Education to Refugees in Dadaab. (video)Google Scholar
Ogden, J. A., & Porter, J. D. (2000). The Politics of Partnership in Tropical Public Health: Researching Tuberculosis Control in India. Social Policy & Administration, 34 (4), 377391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rawlence, B. (2016). City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. New York: Picador.Google Scholar
Sultana, F. (2007). Reflexivity, Positionality and Participatory Ethics: Negotiating Fieldwork Dilemmas in International Research. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 6(3), 374385.Google Scholar
Tsuda, T. (1998). Ethnicity and the Anthropologist: Negotiating Identities in the Field. Anthropological Quarterly, 71(3), 107124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
UNHCR. (2018a). Dadaab Refugee Complex. 1 February 2019, Scholar
UNHCR. (2018b). Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Kenya by Country of Origin and Location. Retrieved 1 February 2019, from Statistical Summary as of 31 December 2018: Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Kenya: Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats