Middle East Scholars (MES)
The project in brief
The project is implemented by ULCC International University (LCC) in Lithuania. The project started in 2015 with the first students arriving to LCC in 2016. This is an ongoing project as students graduate and new candidates get enrolled.
The priority for the Middle East Scholars Program is to assist war-affected students by providing an opportunity to start or continue their BA or MA education at LCC International University. An intensive English program (if needed) and supplemental support systems are a part of the scholarship package.
The project aims to provide an educational pathway in such a way giving access to third country solutions. Refugee youth get an opportunity to build a new life through an educational pathway, get education and be able to build a professional life afterwards.
Elements that facilitated the implementation of the project included LCC's mission and commitment to help youth to get education in a safe setting and of course the university's and the donor's financial commitment to start and fund the project.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Each year LCC accepts about 10 new students for the scholarship for BA level studies (sometimes MA as well) as well as intensive English preparation program which prepares them for continuation of BA studies.
Since 2016 when the first students came, LCC's Middle East Scholars program has served 87 students: 17 Afghans, 61 Iraqis and 9 Syrians.
As of July 2023, 42 students have graduated: 26 received their MA diplomas and 16 BA diplomas.
Graduates have gone into further studies in Lithuania, Germany, Canada and Iraq as well as found jobs and are building their lives/careers in Lithuania, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia or Iraq.
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
In the first years of the project we lost a few students who came into Lithuania and then left for Germany.
How they were overcome
We have re-evaluated the candidate selection process and removed automatic funding for travel. We wanted to make sure that if the candidate was really interested in the educational pathway, they will do what they need to do to get to Lithuania. That was proof of their commitment to the program.
Results of the Good Practice
- For the refugees: This program provides a chance to start a new life, get aneducation and build a life in a new, safe location.
- For the host community: As a university we want to educate the Lithuanian society, to break stereotypes about refugees and to show that by welcoming refugees who get educated in Lithuania, develop friendships, they become active members who contribute to the welfare of the society.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The program provides an opportunity to get the educational pathway and a long term solution in another country in such a way easing the pressure on host countries.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
By getting education refugees get the skills, the knowledge, the experience and above all self-worth which enhances their self-reliance to start their new life.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
This scholarship program is giving an educational pathway, so it is a third-country solution.
Objective 4: Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity
We have proudly seen our Iraqi students going back to Iraq, getting jobs with international NGOs and proudly contributing to rebuilding their own society. Especially our Yazidi graduates who were eager to go back home. Having the international experience and diploma in hand they had the opportunity to go back and apply for job that they would have never been able to do without this scholarship opportunity.
LCC International University is committed to continuing the project. At the start the project was focused on war effected youth from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Now the project is accepting application from any country.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
There are two areas in which support would be required:
- Financial - it would be possible to grow the program and accept more candidates if there was additional funding
- Visas before arrival - Lithuania is a small country and does not have embassies in many countries yet the requirement is that accepted students must apply for a visa there. Refugees do not always have a chance to travel to other countries to reach those embassies. So having flexibility for EU countries to work together and maybe giving visas so refuges can get into the EU and then apply for the residence permit in Lithuania would make the whole process much easier. Governments should acknowledge that refugees aren't just regular international students, they do need help in visa application process and a bit different status.