Grantee: 2008-2010

Funded: PhD Course Fees

Collin, a refugee academic from Zimbabwe, believes that he lost six years of career development after arriving in the UK.  Although he had been a successful lecturer and PhD candidate in his home country, he was initially unable to find a teaching post in the UK and had to work as a forklift driver. 

Collin had become interested in politics in the late 1980s as an undergraduate student and was involved in anti-government and anti-corruption demonstrations.  Following one demonstration he sustained head injuries from a police beating and was charged under the Miscellaneous Offences Act, a law Human Rights Watch believes is used to restrict public debate and criticism of the government.

After finishing his MSc in International Relations, Collin began lecturing in the subject, teaching issues including Humanitarian and Human Rights Law to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Zimbabwe.  At the same time, against a backdrop of increasingly draconian laws and a devaluing currency, he increased his involvement in the democracy movement: he became a member of the anti-corruption charity Transparency International, joined the National Constitutional Assembly and attended the launch of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  He also served as an informal advisor to several MDC members, some of whom would later become MPs.

Collin was one of a number of academics who were forced into exile for their involvement with the opposition. He was accused of teaching his students anti-government politics and his office was ransacked by intelligence agents.   At first, Collin left the country but did not originally plan to seek asylum: he hoped to establish an academic institute and continue his PhD studies in the UK, planning to return to Zimbabwe when the situation improved.  However, after several months it became apparent that he would not be able to go home.  Aware that his freedom to work and study would be limited, he claimed asylum.

As soon as Collin’s refugee status was granted, he tried to find teaching posts and resume his PhD, which he had been forced to abandon at an advanced stage.  However, he discovered that without UK qualifications and experience this was not possible.  He began working as a forklift driver, took out a Professional Development Loan and enrolled in an MA in International Relations at the University of Birmingham.  On completion of this course – and still working hard to pay off his debts – Collin was accepted onto the University’s PhD programme.  He applied to CARA, who agreed to fund £6,680 to cover his first two years’ course fees.

Collin has recently finished his PhD and has gained valuable UK experience teaching at the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick.  His supervisor says “Collin wouldn’t have been able to undertake his PhD – which is essential for his ability to pursue an academic career – without CARA funding”.  She has also described him as “the most hard-working PhD student I have ever had the pleasure to supervise”.  Collin is now looking for post-doctoral research positions and is pleased that his academic career is progressing again.  He currently works as a Researcher at the Commonwealth Secretariat.