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Mat Wright

A new online platform connects displaced students with international opportunities to continue their education.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education have launched an online platform to connect displaced students with opportunities to continue their education in safety around the world. This initiative is supported by a number of international partners, including the British Council, reflecting a growing commitment in the international community to address the higher education needs of displaced populations.

The new IIE Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (IIE-PEER) currently offers more than 600 scholarships, language learning and online courses in numerous countries for college and graduate students whose access to education has been cut off by crises in their home countries. 

Education in emergencies is one of the most underfunded sectors in humanitarian aid.  However, the need for higher education is especially acute in places of conflict, where it is crucial in rebuilding societies and maintaining stability. Higher education is strongly linked to increased opportunity, strengthened economic development, improved public health and safer communities. It offers young people hope and a path towards a sustainable and independent future.  Current conflicts, persecution and violence are hitting university-aged youth particularly hard. IIE estimates that as many as 200,000 Syrian students are currently out of university because they have been forced to terminate their studies due to the ongoing crisis. While the new platform will initially feature opportunities specifically intended for displaced Syrian students, PEER aims to expand in order to help students displaced by conflict from anywhere in the world to resume their studies online and at locations worldwide. PEER will also add personalized advising services for students. 

John Sexton, former NYU president and founder of the Catalyst Foundation, said, “If they have school, the displaced students can turn their lives around. We aim to provide them with the education they deserve." PEER is the first major initiative of the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education. At the celebration of its founding held in September at IIE’s headquarters in New York, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the United Nations special envoy on global education, led a discussion on ways that leaders in education, government and philanthropy can help meet students’ emergency needs. 

“Education is a basic human right,” Brown said in a recent commentary piece, Educating Syria’s Rebuilders. “We already know that, on average, refugees spend at least ten years away from their home country. If they are deprived of an education during that time, they will have few employment opportunities in the future. Not providing an education for displaced people has been one of our humanitarian-aid system’s biggest failures.”

Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Institute of International Education, remarked, “As the crisis multiplies, there is a real prospect of a lost generation. We must not let that happen. IIE’s new partnership with the Catalyst Foundation to build the PEER clearinghouse is a tremendously valuable breakthrough in connecting displaced students with resources anywhere in the world.” 

Governments and other donors are asked to join the effort to expand its reach to displaced students in higher education in all world regions. To pledge emergency student support through PEER, please email peer@iie.org.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education (IIE) is the leader in providing international education strategies and program services.

IIE has a long history of providing emergency assistance to students and scholars facing threats and danger throughout the world, including the conflict in Syria since its outset in 2011 through the IIE Emergency Student Fund and the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund. IIE manages the Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (PEER) with major support from the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education. 

About the Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education

The Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education works to expand access to high-quality education for children and youth around the world.

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