Our Christmas Wish for 2021? #AimingHigher for refugee education

Today, only 5% of young refugees have access to higher education. This number must increase, so that more refugee youth can realize their potential, dream big and build better futures.

Higher education opportunities for refugees fall far behind that of their peers – the average higher education enrollment of non-refugees stands at 39%. Together with partners, UNHCR is committed to increase refugees’ access to higher education to 15% by 2030.

This December, our Christmas Calendar focuses on this ambitious goal, sharing inspirational stories on refugee students and highlighting important initiatives to ensure that even more will receive the life-changing gift of education.

What is going on?

Only 5% of refugee youth today have access to higher education. This is progress compared to the 1% in 2019, but it is still far below the global average of 39% of non-refugees enrolled in higher education today.

Higher education is key in allowing young people to thrive and to ensure the link between learning and earning. This also applies to young refugees, who have already suffered so much – and for them, higher education also equals hope for a better future.

Ensuring that more refugees are enrolled in higher education not only helps the students themselves, but their whole community. It paves the way for employment and the opportunity to actively contribute to their local economies; whether refugees are hosted in a country of asylum, have been resettled or have returned home.

In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Quality Education for all, increased access to education, including higher education, for the world’s millions of refugees is essential.


What needs to change?

More refugees must be able to enroll in universities and other higher education institutions. We want a world, where refugees are able to realize their potential via education and not only become self-reliant but vital contributors to local communities and economies.

Together with partners, UNHCR has set an ambitious goal – the 15by30 target – ensuring that 15% of young refugee women and men can access higher education by 2030. This would mean that approximately 500,000 refugees would be able to continue their education and participate in academic life, paving the way for a better future for themselves and their communities.

To achieve this and create progress, UNHCR and partners have developed a roadmap, focusing on five specific tools to expand the opportunities:

  • Ensure that more refugees are included in national systems and can enroll in national universities.
  • Ensure more technical and vocational education and training to refugees.
  • Strengthen Connected higher education programmes, taking advantage of digital and technical solutions and platforms.
  • Increase the number of scholarships in UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarship Programme
  • Build so-called complimentary education pathways for refugees’ admission to third countries, such as student visas.

UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarships Programme (DAFI) has been in place since 1992 and has supported more than 18,500 young refugees to pursue university. Currently DAFI-scholars are supported in 55 different countries.

Read more: UNHCR’s Refugee Education 2030: A strategy for refugee inclusion


How can you make a difference?

In December 2020, UNHCR launched the Aiming Higher campaign, allowing people and companies across the world to make contributions to scholarships in UNHCR’s DAFI programme – and hereby directly help young talented refugees into higher education.

So far, the campaign has raised more than 6.4 million USD, covering full four-year scholarships for more than 500 refugee youth.

Make a donation – and make a difference in the life of a young refugee

Today’s #AimingHigher Calendar surprise: