Announced on September 27, the figure marks the US government’s highest refugee admission target in decades for the 2023 fiscal year, indicating a clear departure from the anti-immigration stance of the previous administration.
The government also announced the launch of a pilot program that will, in time, allow private sponsors to identify and refer individual refugees to priority entry routes. The government specifically noted that this could be used by higher education institutions to sponsor refugee students.
The news comes as non-profits and international agencies renew calls for institutions to do more to increase the number of refugees participating in higher education.
“If every university in the world enrols just 15 refugee students, the refugee higher education crisis will be over”
“If every university in the world enrols just 15 refugee students, the refugee higher education crisis will be over,” said University of the People president Shai Reshef at the Refugee & Migrant Education Conference in September.
University of the People, a tuition-free online university, currently has over 16,000 refugees in its student body and has pledged to enrol 25,000 refugees by 2030. The organisation said it now receives “daily applications” from refugees.
“The biggest challenges are convincing the leaders of [the] world’s 31,000 plus universities that enrolling 15 refugee students each will not have a major impact on their budgets as well as educating them about the benefits that refugees bring to their institutions and how they will enrich the educational experience for all of their students,” Reshef told The PIE News.
Currently, only 5% of refugees have access to higher education according to the UN, compared to 40% of non-refugees.
The UN has set a target known as 15by30 – a commitment to achieving enrolment of 15% of young refugee women and men in higher education by the year 2030. This would equate to approximately half a million refugees in higher education, compared to the current figure of 90,000.
Ehab Badwi, founder of Syrian Youth Assembly, an organisation that supports refugees to access education, believes that the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have set back progress towards this goal – and that the solution may be in less “traditional” methods of delivering education.
Through the Syrian Youth Assembly’s partnership with Coursera, displaced people can access free online university modules remotely. To date, almost half a million people have enrolled in the courses, which cover topics including technology, AI and medicine.
“It’s not only about giving them access to education, but giving them education that can keep them at the same level as other young people in the world,” Badwi said.
Badwi shared examples of displaced people who have already completed English teaching degrees in Syria, but are unable to work in other countries as different accreditation is required, such as a TESOL certificate. SYA’s platform allows them to complete a free course to obtain a TESOL certificate via Arizona State University.
“We provide them the opportunity to work in something they love,” Badwi said. “We give them their internal peace.”