Higher Education and Syrian Refugee Students: The Case of Lebanon
This report presents issues within tertiary education for young Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It is part of a broader regional study commissioned by UNESCO. The project aims to assess the impact of the conflict in Syria and the results of the crisis on tertiary education in host countries, including Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey. This report presents the findings of an investigation that aims to identify major lines of action in tertiary education in emergencies, namely, legal frameworks and policies implemented by key stakeholders within the sector, whilst offering insights into the current status of tertiary education for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The report employs a qualitative approach that intends to explore and understand the challenges and opportunities of Syrian refugee students in accessing tertiary education. Research demonstrates that due to financial strains on the Lebanese economy, the government’s attempts to revise clear and appropriate policies to deal with the rising number of Syrian students in the tertiary education sector are restricted. The Lebanese government incurs higher costs than their budget, and as a result, resources and effort towards the tertiary education sector with regards to Syrian students are limited. Moreover, the lack of coordination among key actors in the sector ultimately results in the misallocation of resources and effective policy planning in Lebanon.
The study findings show that the large number of refugees, who have significantly altered the national demographics within the country, present a challenge for the state and local communities in meeting the needs of both the refugees and the host communities. The challenges specific to the education sector are:
(1) legal issues and restrictive host country policies and procedures, including residence restrictions,
(2) experiences in university application procedures or lack of academic and career guidance, which present potential pathways to the labor market or further education, and
(3) financial shortcomings.
This case study offers policy and program recommendations to decision- and policy-makers for the national and international communities, with the overall goal to improve and guide further practice and research in supporting protracted refugee situations to access tertiary education, and its long term benefits.