A new partnership to empower refugee students
The University of Edinburgh has partnered with the University of the People, the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited online university, to empower refugees to take control of their futures and reclaim their hopes and dreams.
Losing the support structures of society that we take for granted can throw your whole world into disarray. This is the reality for many refugees, whose turbulent countries of origin and life-threatening situations mean losing basic rights, safeties and possibilities.
Many refugees are children - 50 million children were refugees or migrants in 2016, according to UNICEF. Having persevered through desperate circumstances, there is a determination in the face of adversity. Justin Forsyth, deputy executive director of UNICEF, has discussed that whenever he has spoken to child and teenage refugees, “once they’re safe, the first thing they say they really want is an education. They’re desperate to have an education, so that they can actually rebuild their future.”
The destruction and loss of infrastructure and processes that occurs during the situations that cause people to become refugees can often prevent this from becoming a reality.
There is hope, however, through an organisation called the University of the People. It is the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited online university, and the University of Edinburgh has embarked on a partnership with it.
Key members of the partnership project team, Jake Broadhurst and Charlotte Clarke, spoke about the partnership at When Education Becomes Possible, an event at the University which showcased the transformative nature of education.
Once they’re safe, the first thing they say they really want is an education. They’re desperate to have an education, so that they can actually rebuild their future.
Jake explained that he met the president of the University of the People, Shai Reshef, at a UNHCR roundtable.
Shai had told Jake about the work they had been doing in California to support local refugees, where they were studying for the first two years with the University of the People online, and then progressed to Berkeley to study on campus and exit with a degree.
Though Jake had initially thought that it wouldn't be possible to do a similar activity at the University of Edinburgh, the involvement of Berkeley renewed his faith that it could be taken forward.
Charlotte went on to explain the process of studying with the University of Edinburgh via the University of the People. “People who have done some of their education, perhaps whilst migrating, with the University of the People can apply to one of the undergraduate programmes in the School of Health in Social Science in direct entry into year 2. They can complete their university Undergraduate degree at University of Edinburgh. We are hoping that we will have the first students applying now, this autumn, with the intent of starting with us in September next year.”
There are unique challenges for refugees in applying to study.
Charlotte highlighted one such point, in that “if you’re leaving Aleppo or something like that, you won’t maybe think to pick up your certificates, and you can’t prove your educational history.”
This is just one aspect that makes the University of the People so important for refugees – as you do not need to provide proof of educational attainment in order to study with them.
The programme is open to students with permission to stay in the UK as a refugee and domiciled in Scotland, and Syrian nationals domiciled in Scotland with humanitarian protection in the UK.
Students worldwide, who have completed University of the People undergraduate programmes, may also be able to enter Edinburgh postgraduate programmes via online distance learning.
The initial launch will be for Health Science graduates from the University of the People, who will be eligible to apply to Edinburgh to complete a bachelor’s degree in Health, Science and Society, however the initiative will later be expanded to include other subjects.
As part of the agreement, University of Edinburgh Principal Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea will join the University of the People’s President’s Council.
Professor O’Shea said: “The University of Edinburgh is proud to partner with the University of the People. Edinburgh strongly believes in supporting talented scholars and academics from around the world. We recognise that Edinburgh can make an important contribution by collaborating with the University of the People and enabling their most successful students to study with us.”
The University of Edinburgh is proud to partner with the University of the People. Edinburgh strongly believes in supporting talented scholars and academics from around the world. We recognise that Edinburgh can make an important contribution by collaborating with the University of the People and enabling their most successful students to study with us.
President of the University of the People, Shai Reshef said: “We believe that the best way to integrate refugees into their new countries is by letting them complete their degrees in local universities. We are thrilled to partner with the University of Edinburgh.”
For more information on the University of the People, visit their website.