Leading with Lived Experiences: Refugee Voices Shaping Higher Education’s Future

Co-lead by Amna Shah & Jackson Byiringiro

The global refugee crisis presents a pressing challenge, demanding innovative educational solutions. Existing evidence reveals a shortfall in universities’ ability to meet the unique needs of refugee students, including mental, social, and emotional well-being, and employability readiness. These needs encompass various factors, such as recognizing prior educational achievements, addressing legal status, accommodating family dependents, and facilitating cultural adaptation. Our project seeks to bridge these gaps by establishing a collaborative platform for sharing insights, experiences, and best practices in refugee education, empowering refugee students. This initiative engages universities, refugee support organizations, educators, and refugee learners to develop comprehensive resources, including manuals, video guides, blogs, and podcasts, offering guidance on effectively supporting refugee learners. These materials also serve as educational tools, enabling non-refugee students to contribute to addressing these challenges. Our ultimate goal is a student-led higher education summit in 2025, ensuring that refugee students’ voices and needs lead educational reform for a more inclusive and supportive higher education environment. This project supports the 15by30 campaign by empowering refugee students, raising awareness and advocating for policy changes, gathering crucial data, sharing best practices, fostering collaboration among stakeholders, and providing resources. The planned student-led summit also aligns with the campaign’s emphasis on involving refugee students in decision-making processes. Together, these efforts contribute to the campaign’s goal of ensuring that 15% of young refugees have access to higher education by 2030. Conclusively, the initiative creates a collaborative space for reflection and knowledge exchange on the educational journeys of refugee students across diverse higher education programs. This endeavour unites voices from academia, refugee support organizations, educators, and refugee learners, all contributing to addressing challenges and improving support systems for refugee learners from their perspective.

This joint project is co-led by OUR (Opening Universities for Refugees), and Student Engagement Taskforce (SETF) and it receives valuable support from the CLCC (Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium) and Kepler, in collectively addressing the challenges faced by refugee students within host universities. The problem statement, “Universities hosting refugees are not responding to the needs of the students,” guides our efforts. Our chosen methodology is problem-based learning (PBL), which promotes active exploration of real-world challenges faced by refugee learners. This methodology will be divided into several stages ranging from identifying and compiling the challenges to coming up with the solutions to address those challenges in virtual focus group discussion sessions. These virtual sessions will be hosted with the refugee students, universities and refugee support organisations. This comprehensive approach aims to bridge the gap between universities and the unique needs of refugee students, fostering a more inclusive and supportive higher education environment.

Please contact to book an appointment to learn more about how you can get involved in the project.

Opening Universities for Refugees (OUR) & Student Engagement Taskforce (SETF), with support from CLCC & Kepler, are thrilled to finally launch the most awaited project of the year –  “Leading with Lived Experiences: Refugee Voices Shaping Higher Education’s Future.”

The global forced migration demands innovative education solutions. Many universities fall short in addressing the unique needs of refugee students. This project seeks to bridge this gap by establishing a collaborative platform for sharing insights and methodologies related to refugee education, actively involving refugee students. Please refer to the Concept Note for a thorough understanding of the project, including a summary, problem statement, and key dates for your easy reference. 

We invite students with a refugee background or direct refugee experience to join and actively participate in this project. Particularly, we encourage involvement from refugee students currently enrolled in universities, colleges, and academic institutions, as well as refugee advocates and activists in the field of refugee higher education.

Sign-up form for Refugee Students/Learners/Advocates

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