SEATTLE — Many of the current Syrian refugees are university-age youths. A number of them were previous students leaving behind their home universities, unable to finish their studies. Some reached the age level while displaced, yet don’t have the option to enroll. Only one percent of refugee youths actually attend university. Those without a higher education will struggle to find jobs in their new locations or back in Syria.
This year Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED) launched a new project called Refugees Education Support in MENA Countries (RESCUE) aiming to support current misplaced students. The program partners with countries containing high numbers of refugees such as Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to structure a system where refugee university students can continue higher education.
UNIMED hosted the kick-off meeting for RESCUE in February 2017. Six partners from Europe and eight South Mediterranean countries attended. During the event, the partners discussed current conditions of refugees and shared their proposals and goals for the project’s future. Representatives of partnering universities from Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq as well as Syrian universities were present during the meeting.
InHERE, another program by UNIMED promoting refugee integration in European universities, is connecting with RESCUE to create an extensive network of inclusion for refugee university students throughout European and MENA universities. InHERE aims to improve refugee access to EU universities as well as provide support services and a knowledge base on integration for university and faculty use.
RESCUE’s main objective is to construct an efficient response alongside partnering universities to the problem of displaced university students. They created the Refugee Student Operational Support Unit (R-SOS). These units, once set up, will provide services for refugee university students to continue their paths of academic training. These units may vary; some allow refugees to access standard curriculum on the same level as other students, but some follow training courses providing them with basic employment skills. RESCUE hopes these R-SOS units will help refugee students find a job in their host country or back home.
After their first meeting in February, RESCUE set their plan in motion by distributing a questionnaire to its partner universities; this allows them to analyze what they need in order to handle the future integration of refugee students. They then visited all of the universities along with their surrounding refugee communities in order to better assess these needs. They completed their tour in May and aim to conduct more research in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the problem.
– Hannah Kaiser