Dr Rebecca Murray

Department of Sociological Studies

Lecturer in Sociology


Dr Rebecca Murray
+44 114 222 6443

Full contact details

Dr Rebecca Murray
Department of Sociological Studies
Elmfield Building
Northumberland Road
S10 2TU

Rebecca joined the department of Sociological Studies to work on migration research projects and is currently a Lecturer in Sociology, her teaching and research focuses on migration, forced displacement, education and inequalities.

Rebecca is the of Project Manager for the Migration, Integration and Governance Research Centre (MIGREC) and the Sheffield Migration Research Group (MRG). Rebecca is also an Honorary Associate of the MIMY project (Empowerment, Integration, Migration & Young People).

Borders and bordering practices in post-compulsory education were the focus of Rebecca’s doctoral thesis: ‘Navigating the Higher Education Border: Routes to Belonging for Forced Migrant Students in the UK & Sweden’, a comparative study exploring the role of universities in mitigating and exacerbating the marginalisation experienced by forced migrant students in the UK and Sweden. Subsequent research ‘Forced Migrants in Higher Education: ‘Sanctuary Scholarships’ in a Hostile Environment’, has been published in the Journal of Ethnicity & Migration Studies and Migration & Society

Her current role and research profile was built upon 20-years’ experience as a practitioner, advocate and campaigner in the statutory and non-statutory sector. Rebecca founded and acted as Director of the Article 26 project, working in partnership with UK universities to create scholarships for students marginalised as the result of their immigration status.  

Rebecca has extensive experience of working in the statutory sector, as a qualified Welfare Rights Office specialising in the rights and entitlements of people aged 19 and under. Rebecca spent over 10 years working in the third sector with Save the Children, where she specialised in research, advocacy and working in participation with young people experiencing forced displacement and severe and persistent poverty.

Rebecca continues her work in the field of forced migration and higher education through her position as trustee for the Schwab & Westheimer Trusts and as a Board Member for the University of Sanctuary. In 2016, Rebecca was awarded an honorary fellowship by the University of Winchester, and in 2019 an honorary doctorate from Keele University.

Research interests

May 2019

‘Understanding the role of faith based organisations in anti-trafficking’
A member of the ESRC team conducting this research project in collaboration with the University of Leeds. In recent years, faith-based organisations (FBOs) have become increasingly prominent in both campaigns around anti-trafficking, and the provision of services to trafficked persons. FBOs provide services as part of the government-funded National Referral Mechanism, as well as ‘filling the gaps’ by supporting people outside of government contracts. This project explores how faith shapes approaches to anti-trafficking. What, if anything, is distinctive about the support offered by FBOs and how this support experienced by trafficked persons. The end of project symposium is due to take place 24th January 2020 entitled: ‘Rights, dignity and religion: responding to ‘modern slavery’.

September 2018

‘Qualifying Opportunities & Quantifying Demand’: Forced Migrant Access to Higher Education
I am the PI on this research funded by the MB Reckitt Charitable Trust and De Montfort University. It constitutes comprehensive mapping of the provision and impact of opportunities within higher education targeting forced migrants. The activities of 72 HEIs were analysed following structured research interviews with 45, archival and internet based investigation for the remaining 29 HEIs. The policy briefing ‘Mapping opportunities available for forced migrant students at UK universities: Sanctuary Scholarships’ has been disseminated throughout UK universities and the relevant bodies governing higher education. One academic article ‘UK University Initiatives Supporting Forced Migrants: acts of resistance or the reproduction of structural inequalities?’ has been submitted to Migration & Society Journal.

April 2018 

‘Forced Migrants in Higher Education: ‘Sanctuary Scholarships’ in a Hostile Environment’
This research is delivered in partnership with the University of Liverpool’s Law School and interrogates the interaction between public (asylum) support and private (Sanctuary Scholarships) in the context of higher education, explored through the intersection of theories concerned with solidarity and bordering practices. A series of policy briefings are in production and an article has been submitted to the Journal of Ethnicity & Migration Studies.

November 2018 – March 2019

‘Exploring the role of higher education institutions in the creation and delivery of alternative pathways to facilitate the resettlement of refugees’
This scoping research was commissioned by the Amnesty International Secretariat to scope existing practice, alongside an exploration of the potential to develop the role played by universities in refugee resettlement, through the creation of alternative legal pathways.

June 2017 – July 2018

‘Displaced Students & Academics in European Higher Education Institutions’
This research explored the challenges in the visibility and delivery of initiatives targeting displaced academics and students in European HEIs. This project was undertaken with an interdisciplinary team led by the University of Manchester, funded by the Marie Curie Alumni Association. The survey findings were published in ANGLE and included in ‘The Future of European Research Funding’ published by the European Commission. In July 2018, key findings were presented during a panel discussion ‘How to Integrate Refugee Students and Academics into University’ at the ESOF conference, with representatives from the European Commission, KIRON, EURAXESS and the University of Grenoble.


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Teaching activities

Rebecca is the module convenor (academic year 2021/22) for:

  • SCS6092 Contemporary Challenges (Refugees & Asylum)
  • SCS2005 Understanding ‘Race’ and Migration