State of Play: Digital and blended innovations for increased access to post-secondary education for refugee youth

WUSC releases new report on increasing access to post-secondary education for refugees in countries of asylum.

By: Stephanie McBride, Senior Program Officer, Program Development & Kenya Equity in Education Project (KEEP)

Globally, only 1% of refugees have access to post-secondary education. This number is even more worrying when we consider that, in 2016, we reached the highest levels of displacement in recorded history.

Post-secondary education is not a priority in emergency and protracted displacement contexts, but it can transform the lives of refugee youth. Education is portable, regardless of whether a refugee is resettled, integrated into host countries, or repatriated to their country of origin. Educational achievements increase access to economic opportunities for young refugees so that they can better support themselves and their families. Post-secondary education opportunities in particular encourage younger refugees to stay in primary and secondary school. Ultimately, post-secondary education provides hope for a better future.

Blu Htoo graduates from Algoma University in 2017, after arriving in Canada through the SRP.

Solutions to fill this urgent gap in the availability of quality post-secondary education opportunities for refugees include WUSC’s long-standing Student Refugee Program (SRP). Our SRP presents a unique model that partners with universities, colleges, and CEGEPS to combine resettlement with post-secondary education. The SRP has a life-changing impact on the students who are placed at our partner institutions across Canada. However, currently the program supports only 130 students per year.

Development practitioners and post-secondary education institutions are recognizing that new partnerships and new technologies can better facilitate meeting refugees where they are in delivering post-secondary education. By complementing education pathways to resettlement, such as the SRP, with more and better in-camp solutions, we can scale-up the post-secondary education offerings that are available to refugee youth.

A new report by WUSC, State of Play: Digital and blended innovations for increased access to post-secondary education for refugee youth, introduces and explores these promising practices to chart an ambitious agenda for increasing access to post-secondary education for refugees in countries of asylum.

Here are 5 key themes that emerged from our report:

1. Connectivity is key.

Improved communications infrastructure can provide refugees with information about available education opportunities and allow them to engage in online courses.

2. Blended learning is a spectrum.

On their own, degrees offered exclusively through online learning platforms struggle with transferability of credits. Approaches that also involve hands-on guidance are generally more successful in improving learning outcomes.

3. Education has an opportunity cost.

Post-secondary education must offer value to students and clear prospects for employment or other desired outcomes, given the many barriers that students face to access. This is particularly true for young women who often face additional social pressures.

4. Credentialing is a significant roadblock.

The most accessible courses (for example, those offered in local languages) may, unfortunately, result in credentials with the least transferability and international recognition.

5. Local partnership ensures improved take-up. Working with local partners who possess greater local credibility ensures that potential students have access to information about their relevant options.

To read the full report, click here.

Regardless of the pathway that ultimately becomes available to a refugee, access to post-secondary education can make a meaningful difference. In the current political climate of populism and instability, it is more important than ever to defend the right to education for vulnerable young men and women. The untapped potential of this generation of refugee youth can transform our global community. With dedication, a strong commitment to collaboration, and investment in evidence-gathering and advocacy, we can continue to realize this vision.


WUSC works to create a better world for all young people. To learn more, start here or subscribe to get highlights straight to your inbox. Interested in volunteering internationally? View our current opportunities. Looking for a new career opportunity? Check out our current job openings. Or show your support for our cause by making a donation.


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