UNSW refugee researcher awarded Fulbright Scholarship

The Kaldor Centre's Claire Higgins has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to explore how past experiences can help create positive solutions for millions of displaced people.


Dr Claire Higgins. Photo: Leilah Schubert

UNSW historian Dr Claire Higgins has been awarded a prestigious 2017-18 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to explore how past experiences can inform positive solutions for the millions of people currently displaced worldwide.

Dr Higgins, a Senior Research Associate at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, will spend six months at Georgetown University investigating how the United States has used in-country resettlement pathways.

In-country programs allow people in need of protection to apply for a special visa while still in their home countries, for example at an embassy, avoiding the need to take dangerous journeys to reach safety. These programs have potential to enhance access to protection, as shown through the resettlement of hundreds of ‘locally engaged’ Australian Government workers from Afghanistan to Australia on in-country visas in 2013-14. However, such visas typically make up less than 1% of the visas granted under Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

This Fulbright project is part of Dr Higgins’ ongoing research investigating ways that countries such as Australia can expand safe and orderly pathways for refugees.   

Dr Higgins, who earned a DPhil in History at Merton College, Oxford, will be hosted by Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration for her Fulbright research.

“I’m genuinely honoured to receive this scholarship and so excited to become part of the Fulbright community. This will enable me to do what I most love to do: use history to show us how we can do things better today,” Dr Higgins said. 

Her forthcoming book, published by NewSouth Books, traces the history of Australia’s refugee policy, drawing valuable lessons for contemporary debates.

Ensuring that insights from rigorous research inform durable solutions to displacement is central to the mission of the Kaldor Centre, the world’s first and only research centre dedicated to the study of international refugee law. Since it was established within UNSW Law in 2013, the Centre has gained global recognition as an intellectual powerhouse on forced migration issues.

Fulbright Scholarships support recipients for professional development in the United States, promoting cultural and educational exchange between nations. Awarded by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, they recognise, support and encourage academic excellence, innovation and creativity.

Dr Higgins will be among the awardees recognised at the 2017 Fulbright Presentation Gala Dinner at Parliament House in Canberra on 8 March.

Dean of UNSW Law Professor George Williams congratulated Dr Higgins on her achievement. "This esteemed award highlights UNSW’s global reputation for excellence in academic research and public engagement," he said.

“Dr Higgins has been a key contributor to the Kaldor Centre’s outstanding research to support the development of legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people. Her Fulbright research will further enhance the Centre’s voice shaping global and local debate on refugees.”

Kaldor Centre Director Scientia Professor Jane McAdam said: “At a time when displacement is at a record high, and the global politics surrounding migration are marked by bitterness and division, there has never been a more important time for informed, innovative thinking about durable solutions. The research that Dr Higgins will undertake as a Fulbright scholar will make an important contribution in this regard.”

Find more information about Fulbright Scholarships here and UNSW’s Kaldor Centre here.