Grant clears path to university in Jordan and Lebanon for Syrian refugees

News Stories, 18 July 2014

© UNHCR/B.Sokol
Tamara, a 20-year-old Syrian refugee, fled her town of Idlib with the most important thing she was able to bring -- her diploma. She hopes to be able to continue her education.

LONDON, 18 July (UNHCR) One hundred Syrian refugee students will begin four-year university courses in Jordan and Lebanon this autumn thanks to a grant of more than US$1.8 million by the Said Foundation to UNHCR's DAFI programme.

The donation by the Said Foundation, a British-based charity devoted to providing opportunities for education, will fund two-thirds of the UN refugee agency's scholarships for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon this year. DAFI is the only global higher education programme for refugees.

"Syria is the Foundation's highest priority and, in the current tragic circumstances, assistance for displaced and refugee Syrians is naturally at the heart of our work," said the Chairman of the Foundation, Wafic Rida Said, on signing the agreement with UNHCR.

"Taking a longer-term perspective, the Foundation has been known for three decades for its initiatives in support of higher education, a focus born of our conviction that higher education is a force for change and a force for good."

The Syrian conflict, in a fourth year, has so far forced more than 2.9 million people to flee, the vast majority into neighbouring countries, and displaced a further 6.5 million within Syria. Half the refugees are children and youth.

"The ongoing Syria conflict is shattering the aspirations of millions of young Syrians, robbing them of the opportunity to build a future for themselves and their war-torn county. Ensuring that these young people have access to quality education while they are refugees is essential in addressing this urgent challenge," said Roland Schilling, UNHCR representative to the United Kingdom. "The support of the Said Foundation, UNHCR's most significant private UK donor, is therefore indispensable."

The Said Foundation's grant will greatly help the continuing provision of scholarships for Syrian refugees in Jordan and the launching of the first higher education scholarship programme for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

In 2014, UNHCR aims to support up to 150 Syrian students in Jordan and Lebanon. Two out of three of these students will be supported over the next four years through the $1,836,785 grant of the Said Foundation.

Refugees face many obstacles in accessing higher education, lacking adequate learning environments and resources to achieve their academic goals. UNHCR estimates only one percent of young refugees of higher education age are at universities.

"UNHCR is grateful to the Said Foundation for this generous investment in the future of young Syrians," said Schilling. "We call on other private sector supporters to follow this lead and support UNHCR's 'No Lost Generation' strategy to protect a generation of Syrian youth from a life of despair, diminished opportunities and broken futures."

The higher education scholarship for Syrian refugee students in Jordan and Lebanon through UNHCR's DAFI programme will cover all types of post-secondary and tertiary education: education at colleges and universities, leading to degrees; as well as technical, vocational, professional and para-professional training, resulting in certificates and diplomas.

The DAFI programme (a German acronym for the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Programme), provides scholarships to refugees to study at universities and colleges in their host countries, and more recently in the countries of return upon repatriation.

Since 1992, DAFI has provided scholarships for more than 6,000 refugees. Currently, over 2,000 students a year 40 percent of them women -- have a chance to earn a degree at universities in 40 hosting countries. Support from the Said Foundation fund will give UNHCR a vital opportunity to expand higher education scholarship programmes in the Middle East.

By Andrej Mahecic in London, United Kingdom