Global Community of Practice Annual Meeting

Aki Takada writes about the “Expanding Refugee Education Pathways” conference hosted by JICUF and the Global Task Force on Third Country Education Pathways

Participants of the “Expanding Refugee Education Pathways” Meeting at Sophia University on May 18, 2023

On May 17 and 18, JICUF co-hosted a conference titled “Expanding Refugee Education Pathways” at Sophia University with the Global Task Force on Third Country Education Pathways (GTF), Pathways Japan, and Sophia University. The GTF was established in 2020 under the guidance of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) to promote and support the expansion of tertiary education as a complementary pathway for refugee students. Called “education pathways” for short, these programs enable refugees to relocate to a third country through educational opportunities and receive protection. They are not merely study abroad scholarships, as they are required to ensure that refugees can remain in the host country after completing their studies. 

JICUF was invited to become one of the GTF’s founding members alongside the Institute for International Education (IIE), the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), the governments of Portugal and Germany, and the Open Society University Network (OSUN) among others, because of our experience administering the Syrian Scholars Initiative and advocating for more institutions in Japan and beyond to engage in education pathways. This conference was the second Community of Practice meeting, with the first one held in Paris in June 2022. 

The overarching goal of the conference was to help build new education pathways programs and expand existing programs. Around 60 people representing governments, international organizations, educational institutions and networks, NGOs and refugee organizations participated from 20 countries. Pathways Japan and JICUF volunteered to co-host this conference based on the growing interest in education pathways among several Asian countries, most notably the Philippines and South Korea, and the Japanese Government’s decision to co-convene this year’s Global Refugee Forum with five other states.

The opening ceremony was held at the Parliament House, where Ichiro Aisawa, member of the House of Representatives, and Hideki Kusakabe, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs International Cooperation Bureau, greeted the guests and expressed Japan’s interest in supporting this initiative. Manal Stulgaitis of UNHCR and Rebecca Granato, co-chair of the GTF, provided the global context and the importance of expanding educational opportunities for refugees. 

The group then moved to Sophia University to begin two days of discussions. One of the things that JICUF advocated for when designing the program was to maximize the engagement of all participants. To this end, the participants were broken out into small groups of six or seven, and had deep discussions on how to design and implement education pathways programs, as well as how to ensure the refugee students’ integration into society and set up the foundation for their success after graduation. The following were key discussion topics: 

      • Why do we do what we do?

      • What does ‘success’ mean in our work on education pathways?

      • What constitutes a durable solution and how do you secure it? Which partners / stakeholders need to be involved?

      • What are the expenses associated with education pathways and how do you fund them?

      • What are the steps to identify, evaluate and select students? How do you determine refugee background, validate educational experience, develop an evaluation rubric, conduct interviews?

      • What are the common problems refugee students face after arriving on campus (psychosocial, academic, integration, legal)? How can higher education institutions, the community or the study body help address them? 

    One of the key objectives of the conference was to develop relationships between institutions and individuals involved in offering or expanding education pathways. The breakout group format allowed participants to deeply engage with one another, and we received overwhelmingly positive feedback. 

    On May 19, 11 core members of the GTF gathered at ICU for a meeting focused on the future activities of the GTF. As part of the agenda, JICUF invited key ICU administrators and Syrian scholarship recipients to meet with the GTF members. It was a wonderful opportunity to introduce our work at ICU to some of the leading international experts on education pathways.

    GTF members at ICU on May 19, 2023

    We are grateful to both Sophia University and ICU for co-hosting the meetings, and to all participants who gathered from near and far. When we drafted the concept note, we added “have fun” to the list of objectives. We are pleased to say that this objective was also achieved!

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    The views expressed are those of the author/s, and are not attributable to the host organisations of the Resettlement.Plus website.

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