In 2015 alone, the numbers of refugees and internally displaced people, including children, reached more than 60 million - the highest since World War II (UNHCR).
Because they fall between the categories of ‘adult’ and ‘child’ and are often forgotten, only one percent of university-aged, displaced students worldwide have access to tertiary education. These students are heavily restricted and face long waits trying to access safety, refuge, and opportunities in new countries. Migration laws are strict and refugee visas are in short supply.
So an estimated 5 million refugees over 18 years old are not getting the chance, despite their capabilities, to further their learning and in Syria, 200,000 university-aged Syrians are cut off from higher education. Yet refugee learners, like their non-refugee counterparts, have enormous potential to contribute positively to the economic development of their host or resettlement country, as well as their country of origin.
These are some of the brightest minds of our generation and we are at risk of losing their insights and contribution to the world. In fact, did you know Steve Jobs’ father was a refugee to the U.S.? Imagine how technology would look today without Jobs.
While it’s encouraging to see global leadership on the issue of refugees, we need all sectors involved. Top colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to solve the humanitarian crisis by opening the door for refugees in their admissions and scholarship programs. Georgetown and Yale are already looking at ways to support talented refugees with scholarships and student visas. Global Citizen wants these colleges and other top universities and colleges, to admit refugee candidates and supplement any costs for refugees who arrive from overseas. If countries can’t or won’t open their doors, maybe our institutions of knowledge, learning and opportunity can. It’s time to plan how to integrate refugees and their host communities and a great place to start is at universities.
Last year, Hult University and the government of Argentina both funded BRC scholarships. This year, we are asking major United States universities) to open their doors and offer more places and scholarships for refugee students. Email deans of admission now and remind them that inclusive education is in their hands.