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About the Research

Transnational Biographies of Education: Young Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers and their Navigation through Shifting Social Realities in Switzerland and Turkey




This project will look at the educational pathways of young unaccompanied asylum seekers aged between 14 and 21, a group whose access to education is frequently described as at-risk. Starting from the premise that with the increasing force of globalisation the international mobility and precarity of young people is also bound to grow, we will explore the strategies unaccompanied refugee youth in two different national settings deploy to enhance their educational possibilities. By focusing on Switzerland (sub-project A) and Turkey (sub-project B), two countries with high numbers of unaccompanied minors but very different institutional frameworks and responses, we aim to gain insight into how young people navigate their ways through landscapes of extreme uncertainty and change. Based on two in-depth ethnographic studies, one in Switzerland, the other in Turkey, the goal of this project is to come to a better understanding of how different legal, political and educational frameworks restrict or enhance young people’s educational opportunities.

In comparing the lived experiences of young migrants in the two countries, we intend to establish how different degrees of control and uncertainty, of agency and ambition impact on young people’s educational biographies.

Using methods such as visual and narrative storytelling and extensive periods of participant observation in formal and informal educational spaces (like schools, state care facilities, youth centres, NGOs, charitable organisations or diasporic networks) we will shed light on the ambiguous interplay between agency and restraint that marks young unaccompanied asylum seekers’ transnational biographies of education. As such this project will offer an important contribution to the emerging body of research on transnationalism, youth and education from a perspective that regards children as active agents in migratory processes.


  • International Workshop 1 has taken place at the PHBern, Institute for Research, Development and Evaluation IFE in Bern on the 28th of May 2016.

  • International Workshop 2 took place at the University of Bern & the University of Teacher Education PHBern  on June 7 & 8, 2017.

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