Eight years into the Syrian crisis, millions of Syrians have fled their country finding refuge in the neighbouring countries. Amongst them, only a small number of post-secondary age students are currently enrolled in a university program, and the majority of those are struggling to adapt to the academic system of the host countries.
Various measures have been taken by local, regional and international stakeholders in the countries affected by the crisis to provide educational opportunities and tangible solutions to the challenges faced by both the students from Syria and the hosting communities.
The project HOPES (Higher and Further Education Opportunities and Perspectives for Syrians), funded by the European Union’s Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis, the ‘Madad Fund’ and implemented by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the British Council, Campus France and Nuffic, organized in 2017, a series of National Stakeholders Dialogues across Egypt, Northern Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, bringing together representatives from ministries and higher education institutions as well as key institutional stakeholders involved in tertiary education and the Syria crisis.
The first gathering was dedicated to presenting an overview of the situation, mapping of challenges and responses as well as an exploration of further approaches on the national level. As a result and according to the majority of research studies and surveys, it was found that the lack of appropriate language skills and specifically in the language(s) of instruction in higher education constitutes one of the main obstacles affecting the enrolment of Syrian refugees’ in higher education institutions in these countries as well the successful completion of their studies.
The need for higher-level foreign language courses (English, Turkish, French, etc.), specialised in the study field chosen by the student and including online language support was agreed upon as a top priority during the two-day conference on Higher Education and Refugees in the Mediterranean region organized by the HOPES project in partnership with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) in September 2017 in Lebanon.
Within this context, the HOPES project launched a second series of National Stakeholders Dialogues across Egypt, Northern Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey bringing together experts, institutional stakeholders and students to explore in-depth further approaches to helping both refugee students and institutions to overcoming language barriers.