ERN+ Webinar on Higher Education Opportunities for Refugee Students

On 8 March 2017, the European Resettlement Network hosted the second edition of its webinar series exploring complementary pathways of admission to Europe for refugees. This webinar focused on higher education scholarship opportunities for refugee students as one such pathway. Listen again to the webinar at the bottom of this page.

The first webinar on private sponsorship can be viewed here. The third webinar on humanitarian admission can be viewed here

Over 70 participants from international organisations, national and regional authorities, NGOs, universities and higher education foundations in Europe and elsewhere participated in the webinar, which included presentations from UNHCR, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), the European Commission and scholarship providers in the EU such as individual universities and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Expanding safe and regulated pathways for refugees to reach Europe in a way that is complementary to resettlement is central to enhancing access to international protection and providing a durable solution for those in need. Scholarship opportunities to higher education institutions have the potential to offer a legal pathway for refugees to arrive safely in Europe. Moreover, increased access to such opportunities can offer refugees hope for a better future, enhanced opportunities for economic self-reliance, and greater participation in civic and public life.

A number of European countries, through a variety of government, university and civil society initiatives, have already established scholarship programmes for eligible refugee students, which have focused primarily on Syrian refugees to date. There are also long-standing examples in non-European contexts, such as Canada's Student Refugee Program, which provides a durable solution for refugees to engage in study programmes and gain relevant qualifications, thereby helping them to establish a secure future for themselves and their families. This webinar explored the potential for the further development and piloting of student scholarship programmes for refugees in the EU, with reference to the Canadian model as an example. 

The webinar began with an introduction to the essential elements that must be taken into consideration when developing such programmes, addressing core protection and technical aspects. Next, the Canadian model was highlighted and its lessons shared, with a view to understanding how this experience can be of assistance to actors in Europe. Lastly, initiatives in Europe were explored with a view to advancing the potential for moving forward in the European context based on the lessons learned.

Key points discussed by the panellists and participants included (1) the process of identification and selection of candidates for scholarship programmes; (2) requirements for pre-departure training and support to contribute to refugees’ successful participation in study programmes, and their successful integration into their new environments; (3) the key considerations for scholarship providers, including legal status and the support provided to scholarship holders during the study period; (4) possibilities for funding and successful partnerships between relevant actors that can enable the development and sustainability of scholarship programmes, (5) the relationship between scholarship providers, government actors, higher education institutions and host communities; (6) prospects for the long-term, including the question of needs and expectations of refugees upon graduation, integration prospects, and how refugees can harness the advantages of completing higher education under a scholarship programme.