International Review of Education

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 235–245 | Cite as

Higher education for refugees: Lessons from a 4-year pilot project

  • Thomas M. CreaEmail author
  • Mary McFarland
Research Note


Refugees experience limited access to adequate education at all levels, but opportunities for higher education are especially lacking. Yet, evidence suggests that education plays an important protective role in helping refugee individuals and communities cope with their daily existence during protracted waiting periods, and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) recently recognised tertiary education as a basic human right. The purpose of this paper is to present findings from the evaluation of a pilot programme, Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM), which initially provided higher education to refugees in Kakuma Camp, Kenya and Dzaleka Camp, Malawi; and to urban refugees in Amman, Jordan. The authors of this note review the progress made towards the pilot objectives, as well as student feedback on the benefits and challenges of higher education for refugees and others living at the margins. The refugees interviewed in this study expressed feelings of empowerment, related to their expanded worldview as well as to a specific set of skills obtained through their participation in the programme. Interviewees also noted a number of limitations specific to the context of their living conditions. Particularly in refugee camps, students expressed concerns about what would happen after their having completed their course. The general outcome of the pilot phase, which ended in 2014, was that the programme addresses a critical need and that it should be continued, albeit with key modifications in its design and delivery. Key areas for future growth of the programme include curriculum transformation, integrated service delivery and university engagement.


Refugees Urban refugees Refugee camps Higher education Service delivery Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM) 


Enseignement supérieur pour les réfugiés : conclusions d’un projet pilote de quatre ans – Les réfugiés ont à tous les niveaux un accès limité à un enseignement approprié, mais tout particulièrement à l’enseignement supérieur. Les résultats scientifiques suggèrent pourtant que l’éducation joue un important rôle de protection en aidant les individus et groupes réfugiés à gérer leur quotidien pendant des périodes d’attente prolongée. En outre, le Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (UNHCR) a récemment déclaré l’enseignement supérieur droit fondamental. Cet article a pour but de présenter les résultats de l’évaluation d’un programme pilote, Jesuit Commons : enseignement supérieur en marge (JC:HEM), qui à ses débuts a dispensé des cours universitaires aux réfugiés des camps de Kakuma au Kenya et de Dzaleka au Malawi ainsi qu’aux réfugiés urbains d’Amman en Jordanie. Les auteurs examinent les progrès réalisés pour atteindre les objectifs du projet pilote ainsi que les retours d’information des apprenants sur les avantages et les défis d’un enseignement supérieur pour réfugiés et autres personnes marginalisées. Les réfugiés interrogés dans le cadre de l’étude expriment un sentiment d’autonomisation dû à leur vision élargie du monde ainsi qu’à un ensemble spécifique de compétences acquises grâce à leur participation au programme. Ils mentionnent d’autre part de nombreuses limites spécifiques au contexte de leurs conditions de vie. Dans les camps de réfugiés en particulier, les étudiants se déclarent soucieux de la période après l’achèvement de leur cours. Cette phase pilote terminée en 2014 tire la conclusion principale que le programme répond à un besoin critique et qu’il doit être poursuivi, néanmoins avec d’importantes modifications dans la conception et l’application du programme. Les principaux domaines pour une extension future en sont une transformation curriculaire, une prestation de services intégrés et un engagement universitaire.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA
  2. 2.Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM), and Gonzaga UniversitySpokaneUSA
  3. 3.Gonzaga UniversitySpokaneUSA

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