Higher Education in Emergencies
“In conflict and crisis situations, higher education serves as a powerful driver for change, shelters and protects a critical group of young men and women by maintaining their hopes for the future, fosters inclusion and non-discrimination and acts as a catalyst for the recovery and rebuilding of post-conflict countries.”
New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

The term “higher education in emergencies” is used most frequently by the United Nations (the UN) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to refer to higher education opportunities that offer international protection to young refugees and displaced people living in areas affected by armed conflict, natural disasters or generalized violence.

This issue is especially important today because the youth population is higher than it has ever been, and of the 1.8 billion young people on the planet, 600 million of them are living in conflict-affected areas. UNHCR points out there are very few programs that offer those 600 million higher education opportunities compared to those that offer basic education, and this is clearly evidenced by the fact that only 3% of refugees have access to higher education.

Young people living in conflict-affected areas are extremely vulnerable because they are a group that is especially likely to be conscripted, forcibly or otherwise, into either national armies or armed groups. This causes a serious loss of talent on the part of countries affected by crisis, talent that is vital to such countries’ reconstruction.

The importance of facilitating young people’s access to higher education is underlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 4.3, which looks to guarantee, between now and 2030, equal access to technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university, for all men and women. The granting of scholarships is mentioned alongside the resettlement of refugees in the Global Compact for Migration as an important solution for the world’s displaced people. For that reason, it is vitally important that governments around the world, as well as the private sector and members of civil society, work together to give young refugees access to university education.