Higher Education for Refugees, what do landscape reviews tell us?
UNHCR has estimated that globally there are only 1% of refugee youth able to access higher education (UNHCR, 2014). Statistically this means that around 195,000 refugees out of the total 7.2 million refugee children and youth who completed secondary education will are able to access higher education (HE). If we try to compare that with the % of HE students across Organization For Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries we will find a discrepancy of 40%. In the later case there is an average of 41% of 25-34 year-olds who attended HE (OECD, 2014).
Access to HE matters a lot to refugees for various reasons. It serves as a very strong incentive to K-12 students. HE has been listed according to some research as a primary aim for displaced students (Refugee Support Network, 2011). HE is, as well, an issue of protection, as it maintains a sense of hope for a future,, and thereby decreases the engagement in violent and sectarian activities.
However, HE of refugees means at the same time a lot to host countries. For hosting communities and countries, well-educated refugees can be productive contributors to their economies on one hand. On the other hand, they can also be supporters for a more socially cohesive society. Needless to mention is the importance and significance of HE for the country of origin. Educated refugees can act, in the event of their return, as catalysts for recovery from the crisis, by supplying the needed skills and knowledge for reconstruction of a previously distorted country.
Despite all those benefits of providing refugees with HE, this is an area that is still under-researched. This is why the recently published research study and the adjacent landscape review titled: “Higher education for refugees in low resource environments” come as a valuable resource in this crucial time. This two part research study has been prepared by Jigsaw Consult in partnership with Refugee Support Network and was published in Dec 2016.
THe landscape review provides a well-structured comprehensive mapping of HE programs that are directed specifically to refugees. The main goals of the landscape report have been identified as follows 1) to understand the different types of HE programs currently in operation; 2) to explore the significance of academic, technological and pedagogical approaches and 3) to facilitate comparative analysis between modalities.
The landscape review included a total of 43 programs and 4 platforms, structuring these into five modalities:
1- programs with physical presence amongst affected populations
2- host community scholarship programs
3- international scholarship programs
4- online learning platforms
5- information sharing platforms.
Each of those modalities has been analyzed across three main themes: academic, technical and pedagogical. This allowed the researchers to conduct an in-depth adn detailed SWOT analysis, focusing thereby on each modality’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. For instance, when looking at the academic profile of a specific modality, researchers would examine the accessibility of the programs under the modality, cost per student, structure of teaching, learning outcomes, accreditation… For the technological profile of each modality, the place of technology within the program has been analyzed, as well as the flexibility that technology provides, issues of connectivity and technology support. The review of those modalities and their analyses helped to identify a set of good practices .
All those analyses provided a foundation for the associated:”Higher education for refugees in low-resource environments: research study”. Although, each research part can be read as a standalone resource, but are best read in conjunction with each other. The research study was conducted over a year and aimed primarily to deliver insights about how pedagogy can or should change when marginalized populations are at the center of HE in order to inform future strategies for programs providing HE for refugees. The research study focused primarily on Modality 1( programs with physical presence amongst the refugees). It closes with some of the key characteristics that are likely to determine good practice within that modality, which have been demonstrated to varying extents within the underlying programs.
One of the main ‘unique’ aspects of that report, is the fact that the ‘voices of refugee students’ could clearly be heard, as there was enough space to describe their insights, feelings, frustrations and expectations. Another uniqueness is the comprehensiveness of researched programs that stretched from Myanmar to Kenya, from Jordan to Liberia covering a wide range of countries and geographical locations.