High-level roundtable on post-secondary response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Leaders in Canada’s post-secondary response to the Syrian refugee crisis gathered this week to discuss the role of higher education in ongoing resettlement and integration efforts.

Convened by WUSC, the high-level roundtable brought together actors from diverse sectors to identify opportunities for greater collaboration and to scale the response. Participants included Canadian university, college, and CEGEP presidents, professors, and students; representatives from UNHCR Canada, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, and Global Affairs Canada; Canadian non-profit organizations working on refugee issues; and other leaders in Canada’s post-secondary community, such as Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada.

As Canada now shifts its focus toward sustainable support for the 25,000 newly arrived Syrians, the roundtable offered a timely opportunity to discuss the role education will play in providing an important pathway to integration, particularly higher education, in addition to the role it will continue to play in future resettlement efforts.

During the event, participants highlighted some of the challenges they have faced in supporting refugee students. They also shared new research, ideas, and opportunities to exchange best practices and identify sustainable, scalable solutions. Emphasis was placed on the need to further adapt student refugee sponsorship models to college and CEGEP contexts, leveraging the unique resources and roles that they play in communities across Canada, far beyond teaching and research.

Discussions highlighted how the sector can further build upon WUSC’s longstanding Student Refugee Program (SRP), including how the program may be expanded and exported to other countries around the world. The event also showcased other innovative programs, such as the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law Refugee Sponsorship Support Program which offers legal support to sponsoring groups. Participants also shared pilot initiatives that are expanding higher education opportunities within refugee camps and contexts through remote learning.

The event also offered an opportunity to identify key priorities for the sector moving forward. Participants highlighted the need to ensure continued support to broader global refugee populations, including displaced youth in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. They also recognized the need to increase support to the hundreds of students and individuals on campuses across the country who are the driving force behind much of the post-secondary response in Canada.

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