A combination of structural barriers, inadequate student welfare provision and the absence of psycho-social and academic support make higher education access for forcibly displaced students challenging. Many of these students will have experienced many stressful and potentially traumatic events that may have or may continue to impact their mental health and wellbeing. This article draws on reflections by educators and findings from eight interviews with students who participated in a twelve-week preparatory course for access to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. The paper firstly problematizes trauma as an organizing concept and challenges the dominant deficit approaches in forced migration studies when working with displaced students. Then, based on qualitative data collected from students and educators, it explores how creative skills were integrated and the importance of the student’s voice as a culturally sustaining pedagogical approach to strengthening trauma-informed teaching approaches. The programme was designed to strengthen individual agency and promote well-being and mental health. Finally, this paper argues that working collaboratively with forcibly displaced students from an asset-based stance appeared critical in creating and sustaining a welcoming higher education environment which could contribute to promoting mental health.

DOI: 10.1080/09540261.2022.2096403
ISSN: 0954-0261