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Higher education and skills

Today, 7% of refugees have access to higher education compared to only 1% in 2019. This is far below the global average higher education enrollment among non-refugees, which stands at 42 per cent.

Achieving 15% enrolment by 2030 – the 15by30 target – will require the coordinated, committed and sustained engagement of a range of partners as well as a focus on higher education institutions and systems in primary hosting countries.

The 15by30 Roadmap, developed with the support of partners and stakeholders, presents concrete guidance and strategic actions to pursue and achieve the 15by30 target.

Scholarship programmes that specifically support refugees, such as DAFI, are vital for both refugees and the communities that host them – enabling forcibly displaced students to continue their schooling, secure employment and contribute to their host communities and countries. Refugee students enroll in all five pillars of the 15by30 Roadmap: enrolment in host country universities, technical and vocational education and training programmes, connected higher education, complementary education pathways and scholarships.

Thousands of refugee scholars and graduates have already put their education and skills into action by starting their own companies, securing employment or advancing innovation and research that can improve lives around the world.

At the Global Refugee Forum 2023 – the world’s largest annual gathering on refugees – UNHCR, States, education stakeholders, and the private sector pledged to increase funding for and access to higher education. They came together by joining and contributing to the global 15by30 pledge for higher education and refugee self-reliance.

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Committing to the 15by30 target

UNHCR and its partners have come together to pledge on refugee higher education and self-reliance to guarantee that 15% of refugee youth will have access to the transformative power of higher education by 2030.

Governments, higher education institutions, students, and private sector partners around the world are committed to expanding access to education opportunities for refugees. Join them.

Learn more about the 15% by 2030 global pledge


UNHCR Strategy on higher education and skills

UNHCR’s 2019 education strategy, Refugee Education 2030: A strategy for refugee inclusion, aims to foster the conditions, partnerships, collaboration and approaches that lead to all refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, internally displaced persons and stateless children and youth and their hosting communities to access inclusive and equitable quality education, including at the tertiary level.

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15by30 target – achieving 15% enrolment of refugee learners in higher education by 2030

UNHCR and partners are committed to achieving enrolment of 15% of young refugee women and men in higher education by the year 2030 – the 15by30 target. Based on 2022 population data, achieving 15% enrolment in 2030 will mean that approximately 600,000 young refugee women and men will be participating in an enriching academic life.


Higher education and skills are a critical link between learning and earning, allowing young people to thrive and transition to the pursuit of sustainable futures. Investments in higher education and skills for refugees strengthen the national education systems in which they participate, to the benefit of host communities, students and institutions. With higher education that is inclusive of refugees, all students can benefit from a richer academic environment, enhanced social cohesion, and improved academic infrastructure and resources. Expanded participation of refugee students in higher education is essential to achieving SDG4, greater enjoyment of rights for all, and improved development outcomes.

15by30 Roadmap and Five Pathways to higher education

UNHCR and a strong network of partners developed a strategic roadmap to support progress towards the 15by30 target. The roadmap is built around five higher education pathways, to offer strategies for optimizing, coordinating, and expanding opportunities overall:

The roadmap also emphasizes the crucial role that student support plays in ensuring that young people complete secondary school and can transition to and thrive in higher education. A good example is the Tertiary Refugee Student Network (TRSN) which is recognized by students, UNHCR, and other partners for its importance as an advocacy platform and for continually highlighting the importance of educational opportunities for refugees. Working with refugee students, TRSN is engaged in amplifying the benefits of education in their communities.

Reporting, data management and tracking progress towards 15by30

The success of 15by30 depends on improved reporting and analysis of refugee tertiary enrolment data. To understand progress towards the goal, the international community, including refugee communities, need reliable access to application, enrolment, cost and entitlement data across programmes that support refugees to access and meaningfully participate in higher education. For this reason, harmonized reporting by all partners on a routine basis is essential to achieving the 15by30 objective.

Higher education and skills as a global priority – Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Refugee Forum

In 2018, the international community approved the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) as a framework to help governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders ensure that host communities get the support they need and that refugees can lead productive lives.

The Global Compact on Refugees affirms that:

"in line with national education laws, policies and planning, and in support of host countries, States and relevant stakeholders will contribute resources and expertise to expand and enhance the quality and inclusiveness of national education systems to facilitate access by refugee and host community children (both boys and girls), adolescents and youth to primary, secondary and tertiary education."

The Compact further recognizes the importance of “measures to strengthen the agency of women and girls, to promote women’s economic empowerment and to support access by women and girls to education (including secondary and tertiary education).” Access to secondary and tertiary education is the first step in closing the gap between learning and earning. It is also central to the objectives of the GCR, which will enhance refugee self-reliance.

To demonstrate commitment to the implementation of the GCR, the first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) was convened in 2019 in solidarity with the world’s refugees and the countries and communities that host them. At the second GRF in 2023, 100 pledges were made focused on higher education and spanning skills development, career readiness, and financial support. The latest progress toward achieving these pledges is captured on the GRF Pledge Dashboard. Translating these pledges into action, stewarding additional partners to join the global alliance promoting refugees’ access to higher education, and monitoring progress using current enrolment data is critical to achieving 15by30.

Expanding access to 15% by 2030 will require the coordinated, committed and sustained engagement of a range of partners. UNHCR stands ready to work with refugees, partners, and stakeholders to ensure that more young refugee women and men gain access to higher education and all the benefits that accrue as a result of tertiary studies.

Are you a student or academic affected by the situation in Ukraine and looking for ways to keep studying?