Universities Aim to Do More for Syrian Refugees

May 12, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Are Europe’s universities doing enough to help during the Syrian refugee crisis? According to a partnership of high education administrators, professors, and diplomats, the answer is “not yet.” A THE article recently highlighted the ways in which colleges can -- and plan to -- do more. Here’s a closer look.

Understanding the Gap

After undertaking “fact-finding missions” to troubled regions including Lebanon and Jordan as part of the effort to determine how universities can enact change, Michael Kerr, who heads up the Middle Eastern studies department of King’s College London, told THE the group’s conclusions: that there was “a gap in the market in the NGO sector.”

Kerr pointed out the inadequate educational options currently available to Syrian refugees -- most of which fail to provide them with the skills they need to succeed in college. “What they lack is a pathway,” said Kerr. “Including an element of socialization through support and mentoring.”

Building a Pathway

In response, Kerr and his colleagues at King’s formed the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (“Padileia”) in collaboration with a number of universities and online learning platforms. Having recently procured five years’ worth of funding from Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (“Spheir”), the organization aims to make up the difference between school and university.

Starting in September, more than 100 students a year will be offered participation in foundational programs available in both Jordan and Lebanon, with a third of spots reserved for underprivileged students from these countries. The following spring, Padileia will also launch an online program giving Syrian refugees access to online coursework which may count toward their university degrees.

The ultimate goal? To help Syrian refugees with a learning experience in which they can acquire the transferable skills they need to succeed in college and join the workforce. According to Kerr, these efforts stand to play a vital role in “enabl[ing] a cohort of the refugees to act as agents of change in a future Syria.”

Find degree courses in NPO studies.



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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