Perspectives for Syrian Students: Higher Education Scholarships for Refugees

Lunch talk 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

11.00 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to the European Union, Rue Jacques de Lalaing 8-14, 1040 Brussels

Sander de Wilde

Before civil war erupted in Syria, more than 20% of the 18-24 year-old Syrians were studying at university. Today, less than 5% of the Syrian young refugees have access to tertiary education[1]. “Young people who are deprived of education, are deprived of their future. We have to avoid that these young people grow up with a feeling of hopelessness and uselessness that makes them more prone to extremism” said Dorothea Rüland, Secretary General of DAAD, at an event organised by the DAAD and the European Commission on 31 January at the German Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. “Syria will need educated young people, once rebuilding of the country is possible. Investing in young people is an investment into the future.”

HOPES_lunch talk_Dorothea Rüland
Sander de Wilde

Dr. Dorothea Rüland, Secretary General of DAAD, highlights the pivotal role of education for providing young people with prospects for the future.

The event in Brussels presented the first results of the HOPES project – Higher and Further Education Opportunities and Perspectives for Syrians. The project - funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the 'Madad' Fund, and implemented by the four European agencies DAAD, British Council, Campus France and EP-Nuffic - provides access to tertiary education for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. In May 2016, the project was officially launched in Brussels; in January 2017 the HOPES project director, Carsten Walbiner, could present its first results: 205 scholarships were already awarded to Syrian students to start their university studies in 2016/2017. The demand, however, exceeds by far the current offer. In Turkey alone, HOPES, together with its partners UNHCR and YTB, received the record number of 13.500 applications. Participants at the event agreed that “we need to do much more”.

                           HOPES_lunch talk_Emma Udwin
Sander de Wilde

Emma Udwin, Deputy Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Hahn, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations presents the EU’s Madad Fund: 932,45 million Euro are available to address longer-term reliance and early recovery needs of the Syrian refugee population and vulnerable host communities.

The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the 'Madad' Fund, was set-up in December 2014 with an initial budget of 23 million Euro. Contributions from the EU budget and 22 EU Member States have increased the current total volume to 932,45 million Euro. The overall contribution volume of the EUTF will increase to EUR 1.3 billion by end of 2017. Over a time-span of 20 months, action documents totaling 767 million Euro have been adopted by the Fund’s operational board to support primary and higher education, psycho-social care, resilience and livelihood initiatives, health, water and sanitary needs as well as the construction of schools. 

Around 50 million Euro of the funds have been allocated to higher and further education. The Fund is addressing longer-term resilience and early recovery needs of the Syrian refugee population and vulnerable host communities. “When discussion on the Fund started, there was not much appetite for long-term investment”, explained the EU Trust Fund manager, Nadim Karkutli. “Unfortunately, we see today that this is needed; the Syrian crisis has not come to an end and we do not know when this will be the case.” It will be of paramount importance to continue supporting Syrian refugees and in particular the young generation. The Madad Fund will need strong support from the European Parliament and EU Member States to be extended beyond its current duration. University studies, for example, take a minimum of three years and the current Fund already comes to an end in 2019.

HOPES_lunch talk_Panel discussion
Sander de Wilde

Panel discussion (from left to right): Nadim Karkutli (DG NEAR, European Commission), Ahmad Al Barakat Almasalma (University of Rostock), Dr. Christian Hülshörster (DAAD), Norbert Neuser (MEP) and Dr. Carsten Walbiner (HOPES Project Director)

A video shown at the event portrayed three Syrian students who have (re)-started their education thanks to a HOPES scholarship. “We need the scholarships holders also as role-models” explained Carsten Walbiner. “It is frustrating to see that some young Syrians give up their ambitions.” The challenges for Syrian students who want to take up studies in their host countries are numerous: funding (international students pay much more than domestic students), language, appropriate courses, recognition of previous studies and the capacity of host institutions that are often already overcrowded by domestic students - to name just a few. These challenges were discussed in a panel composed of representatives of the HOPES project, the DAAD, the Madad Fund, the European Parliament, a Syrian student and around 100 representatives of stakeholder organisations in the audience.

HOPES_lunch talk_Ahmad Al Barakat Almasalma
Sander de Wilde

Ahmad Al Barakat Almasalma, Syrian PhD student and DAAD scholarship holder at the University of Rostock, outlines some of the challenges faced by Syrian refugee students to start-up university studies.

The HOPES project is, however, not only allocating scholarships; it also provides counselling to Syrian students, offers language- and preparatory study courses as well as innovative education courses and supports coordination and exchange of information between education stakeholders in the region. In May 2017, the first regional HOPES conference will take place in Jordan.


[1] “Further and Higher Education Programme for vulnerable Syrian Youth“, Action Document for EU Trust Fund, DG NEAR, European Commission

Further information:

Seminar programme

HOPES project description

HOPES project

EU Madad Fund

Interview with Dr. Carsten Walbiner (in German)

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