Brief outline of key issues, challenges and recommendations addressed during the first and second session
>Professor Salem Al-Agtash reminded the participants in his welcome speech that “the Syria Crisis is now internationally recognized as the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Millions of people from Syria are of disparate needs for humanitarian assistance, of which, education represents the main challenge, opportunity, and hope for a better life”.
>When presenting HOPES, project director Dr. Carsten Walbiner stated that foreign providers of support heavily depend on the input from inside the host countries when defining their various activities. He also stressed the need for further coordination amongst the many stakeholders operating in the region to prevent competition between institutions and to avoid seeing the Syria conflict as an isolated event. He considered that solution seeking must pursue an interdependent and comprehensive approach which requires far reaching coordination.
>According to Professor Ahmed Al-Hawamdeh, efforts made in Jordan regarding the Syrian crisis are paying off at the level of preschools, primary and secondary education. But these efforts have not been transferred so far to the level of higher education despite the existence of various higher education institutions and vocational training centres in Jordan (10 operating public universities, 19 private universities, 41 community colleges and 43 vocational training centres) which have the sufficient capacity to host large numbers of Syrians.
-The number of Syrian students at Jordanian universities has considerably increased between 2012 and 2016 – from 3,891 to 6,024. However, this growth does not match the demand and is still considered as comparatively low with regard to the capacities of the Jordanian universities. There is only a limited number of scholarships available in Jordan. Another problematic issue is the gender ratio: In 2015-2016, less than one third of the Syrian students enrolled at Jordanian HE institutions have been female whereas 52% of the Jordanian students are female.
-While the total population of Syrians who reside in Jordan is 1,300,000, with over 650,000 being registered officially as refugees, the total number of the Syrians of 18-24 years of age residing in Jordan is estimated to be 156,000. However, only 7,024 of them have been enrolled during the academic year 2015/2016 in tertiary education (6,024 in universities and 1,000 in community colleges). This means that only 4.5 % of the Syrians of the age group 18-24 are enrolled in tertiary education while before 2011, the ratio stood at 26%. If that pre-war ratio would be applied to the same age group today, there should be 40,560 Syrian students in tertiary education in Jordan.
-The main barriers and obstacles that affect the Syrian refugees’ enrolment in higher education institutions in Jordan range between high tuition fees and living costs, low enrolment and high drop-out rate of Syrian students at secondary school level, English language deficiencies as well as documentation issues.
-The issue of employability after graduation has also been raised, acknowledging that prospects of Syrians at the Jordanian labour market are rather bleak and unlikely to improve.
-Consolidation among policy makers, NGO’s and institutions and further research on the needs of refugees and higher education were deemed of high importance, especially as service providers are still working with assumptions concerning refugees from before 2011.