The Middle East is home to more than a quarter of the world’s 80 million refugees. Higher education is often seen as a gateway for displaced people to enter a better world, yet only a small fraction of refugees around the world have access to university studies. Lack of documents verifying their academic credentials, funding, language skills and mentorship are the main barriers for refugees to enroll as university students. (See two related articles: “Syrian Students’ Dreams of Studying Abroad Hit New Roadblocks” and “Report Examines Progress in Recognizing Refugees’ Credentials.”)
In recognition of World Refugee Day on June 20, Duolingo, the company behind the popular language-learning app, recently announced a new partnership with UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, to offer more opportunities for refugees to access higher education.
“Higher education turns students into leaders, amplifying their voices and enabling rapid generational change. Yet only 3% of the 80 million forcibly displaced persons around the world have access to it,” Matt Reynolds, UNHCR regional representative for the United States and the Caribbean, said in a news release.
The new partnership will support UNHCR’s 15by30 initiative, which aims to increase the share of refugees who study at universities to 15 percent by 2030. Duolingo’s English Test division will provide funding to create a full-time university counseling position at UNHCR to work with refugee students around the world to guide them through the university admission process.
Students will benefit from professional university counseling in areas like finding the right university, securing funding opportunities, learning how to present a compelling and strong application, and ensuring they meet the application requirements, such as taking standardized language tests and obtaining letters of recommendation.
Students will benefit from professional university counseling in areas like finding the right university, securing funding opportunities, learning how to present a compelling and strong application, and ensuring they meet the application requirements.
“An experienced university counselor is a game-changer for refugees enrolling in university study,” Duolingo said in a news article posted on its blog.
Duolingo has previously worked with UNHCR and the International Rescue Committee to offer services, such as the Duolingo Plus membership and its standardized English language test, free for thousands of refugees.
“We have long believed that refugees are already using Duolingo, but the reality is it’s difficult for us to know that for sure,” the company said. The article added that unexpected learning trends, such a rise in the number of people learning Swedish in Sweden, have been a signal that migrant communities are learning the languages of their new host countries.
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]
The university counseling program will start working with students in the spring of 2022 with the goal of enrolling them as undergraduate students by the fall of 2023.