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Education for the future and integration

Fatimetou, a refugee from Mali, receives a scholarship prize to mark the 25th anniversary of the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) in Mauritania

Fatimetou, a refugee from Mali, receives a scholarship prize to mark the 25th anniversary of the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) in Mauritania, © UNHCR

17.06.2019 - Article

Just one percent of refugees around the world have access to higher education – the aim of a conference in Berlin is to help improve this situation and create new opportunities.

Around the world, more than 25 million people are living as refugees or in a refugee-like situation. Just one percent of them have access to higher education, while 36 percent of all young people worldwide go on to study.

The Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) has therefore set itself the task of helping young refugees to gain access to higher education. The Federal Foreign Office provides 90 percent of DAFI’s funding. These resources have been used to award more than 15,000 scholarships to young refugees since 1992. In 2018 alone, around 6500 students in 51 countries around the world benefited from such a scholarship.

These scholarships enable refugees to gain a university degree in their home or host countries, which gives them prospects for the future and a chance of becoming economically independent. Due to their ties with refugee communities, scholarship holders can pass on their knowledge and thus have a long-term impact as multipliers and role models in their host countries or contribute to peacebuilding and reconstruction in their home countries.

Refugee students and alumni from seven countries are in Berlin for a conference entitled “The Other 1 Percent”.
Refugee students and alumni from seven countries are in Berlin for a conference entitled “The Other 1 Percent”.© UNHCR/Antoine Tardy

“The Other 1 Percent” – Foreign Minister Maas opens the conference in Berlin

Access to higher education is thus of crucial importance to refugees and their host countries. With a view to developing ways of further improving the educational situation of refugees, the Federal Foreign Office, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as well as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are hosting a conference in Berlin on 18 and 19 June 2019. Entitled “The Other 1 Percent – Refugee Students in Higher Education Institutions Worldwide”, the conference is to present best practices and explore ways of improving the situation of young refugees in their host countries.

Foreign Minister Maas, who will open the conference along with Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, commented ahead of the opening:

Our goal therefore needs to be to give many more refugees who have fled war and suffering the opportunity to lead a self-determined life. The only way to do this is to ensure they have access to education. Education provides opportunities for the future and thus furthers integration.

In particular, the conference is to focus on the dialogue with young refugees. In addition to experts and policy-makers, students and alumni from around the world who have received support via the DAFI, Connected Learning, HOPES and Leadership for Syria (LfS) programmes will attend. They will talk about their own experiences and develop new approaches alongside representatives from the world of politics, the higher education sector and donor organisations.

Breathing life into the Global Compact on Refugees

Fostering independence and future prospects for refugees is also a key aspect of the UN’s Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), which was adopted by a large majority of the international community in 2018. The first Global Refugee Forum on its implementation is due to take place in Geneva in December 2019. The focus will also be on the valuable contribution which refugees can make in their host communities.

What can be achieved by enabling refugees to enter into higher education is impressively underscored by the lives of many DAFI scholarship holders. As a major donor and host country, Germany wants to play an active role in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees in order to promote a fairer division of international responsibility in the refugee context and to make use of refugees’ potential.


For more information and the conference programme, click here.


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