We must support HEIs in response to the refugee crisis

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Supporting universities in response to the ‘unprecedented’ refugee crisis is crucial, an audience was told at Going Global.

David Wheeler, Editor, Al Fanar Media, said: “The scale of the crisis is unprecedented. There are opportunities for universities outside the region to work with universities in the region. A lot of them needed strengthening before the Syrian crisis, and if it’s done the right way it can produce enormous results and be a new form of internationalisation for capacity and nation building.”

Laura Marshall, Norwegian Refugee Council, Jordan, said: “We need the funding and expertise of Western universities working at an institutional level. Universities in Lebanon are welcoming students from Syria, but the population is growing faster than they can accommodate. We are working in camps and host communities to look at ways of delivering innovative education opportunities. There are a lot of refugees who are no longer accessing high school and this is very important in terms of thinking about the next generation. This is an unimaginable challenge for the future.” 

The audience were told that there has been a sharp escalation in the number of people forced to flee their homes – with almost 60 million people displaced at the end of 2014 and the Syrian war impacting immeasurably on the education of young people. While universities in Lebanon have welcomed students from Syria, the population is growing faster than the country can deal with. 

Zeina Awaydate, Co-Chair, Lebanese Association for Scientific Research, commented: “We are dealing with people who have lost their homes and dreams and we also need to think of the impact of trauma on young people“

Laura Marshall added that Syrian students made a very positive contribution to university life and she said it was important, looking to the future, that higher education institutions prioritised teaching skills that would be transferrable to Syria. The audience also heard that there remains an acute refugee crisis in parts of Africa. She said: “There isn’t much provision for higher education in refugee camps in Africa. Secondary schools are often serving both host and refugee communities. There is still a huge refugee crisis in Kenya and Somalia and Afghanistan. Education only gets four percent of humanitarian funding which is nothing.”