Tertiary Refugee Student Network

In celebration of World Refugee Day 2019, the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) held a series of events highlighting the DAFI refugee scholarship programme and underscoring the importance of higher education for refugees.

UNHCR and partners have received repeated requests from tertiary students affiliated with diverse partners and programmes for a way to connect with their peers, be it for networking, social support, academic and entrepreneurship collaboration.

In response to these requests, UNHCR organised a 2-day workshop that took place on Monday 17th and Friday 21st June, alongside the International Conference in Berlin on 18th and 19th June on the topic "The Other 1 Percent - Refugees at Institutions for Higher Education Worldwide". Participants in this workshop included 18 DAFI and Connected Higher Education students, as well as members of the Global Youth Advisory Council, representing 12 different countries of origin (Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Syria, Sudan, Uganda) and currently residing in 8 different countries (Chad, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan, Rwanda ). UNHCR field offices in collaboration with programme partners undertook a thorough, democratic selection process in order to identify the students that formed the delegation.

The objective of the workshop was to generate ideas and recommendations on the structure, needs, and scope of a new tertiary student Network. The workshop was designed and led by the 5-member Student Leadership Team, through an iterative human-centered design process spanning the 3 months prior to the workshop.

The mission of the TRSN is to increase refugee self-reliance through connecting refugee learners and alumni at local, national, and global level; advocating for greater access to higher education to achieve 15% enrollment by 2030; providing guidance to institutions and students to promote quality academic experiences; and increasing awareness of, and access to, opportunities such as internships, professional development, and employment.

The Network exists to respond to student needs at local, national, and global levels.

Taking into account the individual context of each location, priorities for action will be student-generated and solutions student-driven. Similarly, the structure of the network at local and national levels will vary based on the needs and preferences of the students themselves.

In general, local activities will include convening groups of students to discuss and solve specific challenges; liaising with local authorities and universities; engaging the private sector; and outreach to secondary students and the wider community.

At national level, the Network will be uniquely placed to bring together students from around the country and advocate with Ministries, UN agencies, and tertiary governing bodies.

Globally, the Network will be represented by student leadership to make visible the urgent need for greater access to higher education and use their platform to communicate learnings from tertiary refugee students around the world. Where there is a national youth advisory council in place, one representative from the TRSN should sit on that board to harmonize activities with GYAC.