Universities must support more students with refugee backgrounds
20 June 2022
Offering students with refugee backgrounds targeted support to enter higher education is now a bottom line for universities hoping to top a prestigious global performance table.
The Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which assess universities based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), now explicitly reference support for students with refugee, asylum seeker and stateless backgrounds.
This change takes on board the recommendation of the working group, created by the co-director of the University of Auckland’s Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies (CAPRS), Dr Gül İnanç.
Dr İnanç says expanding access to higher education for displaced youth means opening the door to knowledge, skills development, professional advancement, sustainable livelihoods, cultural enrichment and social cohesion for thousands of ambitious, talented young people who are today denied that opportunity and associated identity.
“Universities which choose to move their classroom beyond four walls and to share knowledge with global communities in need now, via online diploma programmes for example, will be identified as the thought leaders of tomorrow. For sure, this leadership is needed now, but also in the years to come with the certainty of future mass displacement due to climate change.”
UNHCR and partners set an ambitious target to enrol 15 percent of young refugee women and men in higher education by 2030.
According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only around five percent of a possible three million students with refugee backgrounds currently attend tertiary institutions, as compared to around 39 percent average enrolment among non-refugee youth; a figure that is much higher in many OECD countries.
Recognising the importance of access to higher education as part of a comprehensive refugee response, UNHCR and partners set an ambitious target to enrol 15 percent of young refugee women and men in higher education by 2030.
Duncan Ross, chief data officer of THE Ranking Agency, believes education institutions have a critical role to play in achieving this target.
“Achieving this goal would provide roughly half a million refugee youth with the opportunity to benefit from exposure to the new ideas one gains from higher education, to develop skills and earn a qualification that can lead to jobs and greater self-reliance, and to have the right to pursue their dreams equally alongside millions of their non-refugee peers.”
This leadership is needed now, but also in the years to come with the certainty of future mass displacement due to climate change.
Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland was one of the first globally to make refugees an ‘equity group’ and currently has more than 800 students enrolled.
The University has Undergraduate Targeted Admission Schemes (UTAS) that apply to refugee students, and which reserve a certain number of places in undergraduate programmes for applicants who have met the University Entrance (UE) standard but have not met the guaranteed entry score programme of their choice.
The University of Auckland is ranked sixth globally in the Times Higher Impact rankings.
Julianne Evans | Media adviser
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