5 things universities and schools can do
Many refugees miss out on an education. The chance to study abroad in peace and safety can represent a very rare chance to realise their dreams and full potential.
1. Provide scholarships
Scholarships can help refugees to continue their education somewhere safe, learn a new language, and prepare for one day rebuilding their home country. Scholarships often cover course and maintenance fees, accommodation, travel and visa costs. Students and alumni can lobby their schools and universities to offer scholarships, and help fundraise to cover the costs.
2. Give advice and be flexible
Meeting admission requirements can be very hard for refugees and asylum-seekers, who may have had to flee without academic certificates, even their passports. Schools and universities can make it easier by providing online advice and open days where refugees can learn more about available courses and support on offer, and how to meet the expected qualifications. For example, institutions could offer tests or short courses to assess competency in the absence of a diploma or transcript.
3. Provide academic support
Refugee academics sometimes link up with education institutions for temporary research and teaching opportunities, remote collaboration, or to build networks and share ideas and skills. Look for initiatives you could hook up with, including learning providers running online courses, and reach out to them. Academics and teachers are also well-placed to help raise awareness and spark debate on issues affecting refugees, by encouraging critical discussion among their students, publishing articles and producing academic research.
4. Campaign for student visas
According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, only 1 per cent of refugees currently attend university. Many are blocked from studying abroad because of visa restrictions and entry requirements that are difficult to meet. Students, alumni and university bodies can work together to raise awareness and take practical action, including lobbying the government to offer refugees more accessible student visas.
5. Be a good host
Refugees might need extra support to get the most out of their studies. Identify issues that could affect their well-being and establish ways to tackle them. Many have experienced horrific events at home, or undertaken dangerous journeys to escape. Others arrive alone and can find it stressful to settle in a new country. A befriending scheme can make newcomers feel at home, as can practical support, for example, financial advice, guidance about claiming asylum and paths to employment, and language training.