In November 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and WUSC (World University Service of Canada) brought together stakeholders with an identified interest or active engagement in developing education opportunities for refugees as complementary pathways for admission in third countries. The two-day international conference Education Opportunities as Complementary Pathways for Admission (the Paris Meeting), explored country-specific and region specific needs and barriers for refugees to access third country education pathways, and identified some emerging good practices to address barriers and expand opportunities. Refugees often face barriers to access higher education, in particular when higher education opportunities are in third countries. These include challenges with academic admissions, with immigration and visa processes, with postarrival support, and opportunities for protection and durable solutions such as resettlement or local integration. This report maps out a higher education journey, outlining the variety of challenges that refugees face in accessing third country education opportunities. Promising practices and initiatives that break down identified barriers and enhance opportunities for refugees are highlighted. There are several program design elements to consider when developing higher education programs that support refugees to access complementary pathways for admission. The Paris Meeting highlighted the importance of the following key elements of program design and approach to third country education opportunities:
• Develop and maintain strong, diverse and strategic partnerships and coordination.
- Meaningfully include and empower refugees.
- Provide new and additional solutions and opportunities to refugees.
- Ensure refugee protection and dignity across interventions.
- Develop mechanisms to ensure legal status, family unity, qualifications recognition and an option to legally remain in the third country after graduation.
- Be context-specific and flexible in approaches.
- Ensure transparency and equity in communications and process.
- Engage host communities and students in refugee welcome and inclusion.
- Develop sustainable and predictable education pathways that support refugee aspirations and choice
The Paris Meeting represents an important milestone in the committed effort and focused dialogue among diverse stakeholders working at the juncture of higher education and durable solutions for refugees. Further exploration and demonstration of the principles outlined here is needed to significantly scale and expand quality higher education opportunities and third country education opportunities for refugees. The global higher education community is well-placed to meaningfully respond to the refugee crisis and demonstrate significant leadership. Higher education solutions in third countries can support both the education and future skills development of refugees, as well as increasing their opportunities to access a durable solution. There is a need for significant investments in the systems and infrastructure that support third country education opportunities for refugees globally. Higher education networks—including students—can play an important leadership role in activating this potential and breaking down existing barriers.
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