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$1m committed to education platform for displaced students

A global database of scholarships and education opportunities available to  displaced and refugee students is set to launch with backing from a new philanthropic organisation, supported by former British prime minister Gordon Brown.

"Many in the higher education community have indicated that they are willing to accept refugee students. We aim to provide them with the education they deserve,” said John Sexton at the platform launch at IIE’s headquarters in New York City this month. Photo: IIE

"As the crisis multiplies, there is a real prospect of a lost generation. We must not let that happen"

PEER – the Platform for Education in Emergencies Response – will be the first initiative to receive support from the Catalyst Trust for University Education, a new fund founded by former NYU president John Sexton and advised by Brown.

The platform has received $1m in backing from the trust, which will join together with the Institute of International Education to build the clearinghouse. IIE will begin collating opportunities for university-aged students offered by its partners including the British Council, DAAD, Coursera for Refugees, and the Global Platform for Syrian Students.

“IIE will conduct in person and virtual training for advisers working directly with refugees on how to use the database”

Speaking with The PIE News, Sexton explained the trust will partner with IIE “because of the experience and ability that IIE brings to the project – in this instance, the knowledge, ability, and network of contacts to be able to identify and bring together the universities, educational institutions, NGOs, and governmental organisations offering resources for Syrian refugee college-age youth.”

The web-based mobile ready platform will give up to date information on scholarships and application guidelines, online courses and MOOCs, translation services, education and advocacy groups in both English and Arabic.

It will also connect students with personalised advising services.

“IIE will conduct in person and virtual training for advisers working directly with refugees on how to use the database, as well as provide capacity building workshops for advisers,” said an IIE spokesperson. “IIE will also work with local organisations, universities and government partners to train them on PEER.”

Universities, institutions and other stakeholders will be able to submit information on their programmes and initiatives to PEER.

Allan Goodman, president and CEO of IIE 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 Trust to build the PEER clearinghouse is a tremendously valuable breakthrough in connecting displaced students with resources anywhere in the world.”

“Once our seed projects have taken on a life of their own, we will step back altogether”

When the conflict in Syria started more than five years ago, over a quarter of the country’s 18-24 year olds were already enrolled in tertiary education. Now four million Syrian children are out of school, including at least 150,000 university-qualified Syrians who were enrolled in university or on track to do so when war broke out, according to the UNHCR.

The Catalyst Trust was founded to support “initiatives that bring educational opportunities directly to the neediest children”. Former British prime minister Gordon Brown chairs the organisation’s advisory board and is also the United Nations special envoy on global education.

“We are looking to spark a wide spectrum of education-related activities — especially activities that are innovative and have the potential to scale up in a meaningful way — that will advance our mission of expanding access to a meaningful education for children in difficult situations,” said Sexton.

“Once our seed projects have taken on a life of their own, we will step back altogether, let our partners take over entirely, and move on to the next initiative.”

PEER will focus on displaced Syrian students initially but aims to expand the platform to add assistance and opportunities for K-12 students, with the long term goal of helping students at all levels displaced by conflict from anywhere in the world.

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