The History of STAR

STAR was the idea of post-graduate student Andy Davies at Nottingham University in 1994.

Andy: “In July 1992 I was leafing (quite by chance) through a magazine published by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) called ‘Refugees’. I was simply staggered by the extraordinary catalogue of human displacement. I was equally staggered, I suppose, to recall that during my three years at university, I hadn’t at any stage come across a student group specific to this issue. So that was when the idea of STAR evolved: In an unusual moment of altruism, I sent a letter to UNHCR in Geneva suggesting they set up an international network of student groups – they wrote back saying they thought it was a great idea and suggested I do it! STAR is an independent and unique network that does what it set out to do – supports refugees and asylum seekers in a practical way.”

Over the next few years Elly Hargreave, one of the first STAR committee members, worked towards establishing STAR groups at other universities.

Elly: “I met Andy Davies, who was a post-graduate student, at his stall in the Freshers’ Fayre in October 1994 as a result of reading a poster about refugees. The poster touched me and the first meeting Andy held really inspired me into being part of the new group. Since that time, through starting more STAR groups in cities I moved to, through contacts STAR made and from sitting behind many stalls in universities – I have met literally thousands of students, been on countless trains, found myself carrying strange props to lots of STAR publicity stunts and have made really fantastic friends. The early years consisted of scraping together and borrowing resources to produce basic flyers about our work in order to recruit students and publicise ourselves. In 1997 we successfully sought our first sponsorship for a national STAR leaflet. It was from then that we realised the potential to take STAR national and even international in the future.”

In 1998 STAR’s first national student conference ‘Beyond Words’ took place at Nottingham University. In 1999 STAR became a registered charity and company and with the support of the Refugee Council established a small support office in London. The first staff focussed on growing the network, responding to the overwhelming interest from students in starting groups at their uni’s. By 2000 the network had grown to over 20 groups and gained a solid reputation as an innovative and unique student organisation. In 2002, the network responded to the gromwing interest from young people by introducing individual youth membership for 16-18 year olds. This has since expanded to include anyone aged 16-25 who are not at university.

Today STAR has around 30 student groups, including one in Cairo, Egypt and continues tosuport students and young people taking positive action in support of refugees right across the UK and beyond!