Improving futures through education
In 2020, 5 per cent of refugees had access to higher education – a figure that is extremely low when compared to the global average of 40 per cent for all enrollments. One way to reverse this trend is through complementary education pathways. They provide safe and regulated avenues for refugees to study in a country that is neither their country of origin, nor the first country where they sought protection. These scholarships, traineeships, and apprenticeships can help refugees gain further skills, improve their opportunities to become self-reliant, and support themselves in a sustainable and durable way.
Many universities, including in Ireland, Italy, and Lithuania, have education pathway programmes and made pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 to improve access for refugees to tertiary education.
University Corridors for Refugees (UNICORE) is a partnership between Italian universities, UNHCR, and a wide range of national and local partners, that offers full scholarships for master’s degrees. Started in 2019, the project has since grown to offer 70 scholarships in over 30 universities across the country.
Italy has also pledged to strengthen university inclusion of refugee students based in Africa and the Middle East and are motivated to continue their university education. The initiative includes facilitating legal entry into the country, supporting students on their journey, and promoting the job placement of newly graduated students.
Since then, the number of refugee students admitted into the programme has steadily increased.
Video: University corridors: an opportunity for refugee students
In Ireland, where the Universities of Sanctuary network was established in 2017, it was reported that six out of eight universities in this network, as well as the Institute of Technology, are part of this initiative to welcome refugees.
The LLC International University in Lithuania fulfilled their 2019 pledge to offer some 15 new scholarships, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) successfully admitted six refugees with no tuition fees. Their pledge was implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania, local NGOs, the Tartar community, and the local UNHCR office.
Overall, these programmes are offering brighter futures to refugees, and universities have a lot to gain. Refugees bring with them different skills, knowledge, and experience that can enrich universities and fellow students in unique ways.