Middle Eastern Universities should open their doors to refugees


While support for refugees education in host countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been met at both primary and secondary levels, the opportunities decrease as they progress to the stage of higher education.

Universities do not have a say in political issues that led to a hindrance towards education for young refugees. However, they can change their own stance to refugee education to boost access and retain refugee students who are already enrolled.

Institutions in host countries for refugees can think of the alternative benefits which they can put forward and how they can do so. By including modules that offer professional development and life skills on top of the just purely academia can add great value to all students involved. In addition, education within these host countries has been included in the humanitarian response to crisis, recognising the right of refugees to education, some distinctively citing tertiary education. However, in reality, it is difficult to conform to the needs of these refugees due to the national policies and politics within these host countries.

While support for refugees education in host countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been met at both primary and secondary levels, the opportunities decrease as they progress to the stage of higher education.

The challenges in accessing tertiary education include:

  • Difficulty in securing valid residency in some host countries such as Lebanon, which then restricts enrollment to local universities.
  • Recognition of academic credentials and degrees by the host countries. Even though countries within the Arab region hold bilateral agreements for recognition of documents, refugees facing difficulties in obtaining authenticated copies of their certificates and transcripts required by some host countries and local universities.
  • Finances is another issue for refugees seeking higher education. While the number of scholarships offered have increased, prospective students hesitate to sign up for the offer because it would mean that they are unable to support their family if the time is spent on receiving an education.

Young refugees also face uncertainty about post-graduation employment in their country of asylum because most of them are saturated in the informal sector of the labor market that results in exploitation.

Therefore, it is critical for local universities in host countries to advance into multi-dimensional institutions. They will have to enhance the university programmes and include teaching procedures that can take place outside campus.

These changes should also include the introduction of dynamic education practices that can meet the needs of learners through active, interactive and experiential learning methods, allowing them to study on their own or from peers. Such practices are exceptionally important in the context refugee tertiary education because they are not typical students. Hence, institutions would have to be innovative in the way they offer knowledge access to these individuals.

New skills and competencies introduced within the curriculum offered to refugee students should not only meet their specific needs as students but also help ensure employability that would allow them to breakthrough from the status quo.

Such competencies include information analysis, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and communication. Additionally, fostering their curiosity, sense of initiative, persistence, adaptability, ethical awareness and reasoning are as important for these refugees.

The following changes should also be implemented to ensure young refugees have access to higher education:

  • Enhancement of reputable governance across universities in the MENA region so that it will help in the progression of tertiary institutions, particularly in areas of social responsibility and quality.
  • Development of updated policies and procedures by governments of host countries that can meet the needs of these new migrants; as the current measures may not respond to the fast-changing needs of these individuals as well as that of its citizens.
  • The host countries should consider investing in the education of refugee students. It serves as an opportunity for them to be empowered and be equipped with skills necessary for making better life decisions. Therefore, investing in tertiary education for refugees is not a luxury, but rather a prerequisite and an entitlement.

Source: Refugee Deeply