Distance learning opportunities
The UNHCR reported that at the start of 2023, 110 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. An increasing body of research demonstrates that, while access to primary and secondary education for displaced people has been prioritised, access to Higher Education (HE) remains limited, being described as a ‘broken pipeline’ for refugees (Dryden-Peterson and Giles, 2010) and a neglected aspect of education in emergencies (Connected Learning for Refugees, 2020).
The most recent data from the UNHCR shows that only 6% of the world’s refugees have access to HE, as compared with the figure of more than 40% for non-refugees. To attempt to redress this, the University of Leicester, along with many other education providers worldwide, has signed up to the UN’s 15by30 pledge, whereby organisations commit to increase this figure from 6% to 15% by 2030.
Distance Learning (DL) is an increasingly important way of creating access to higher education for forcibly displaced people, connecting people wherever they are in the world to accredited programmes and facilitating a global exchange of knowledge.
Since 2018 the School of History Politics and International Relations (HyPIR) has been offering a range of DL sanctuary scholarships for a number of its Master’s programmes, providing free access (i.e. fee waivers) to postgraduate education for students who have experienced forced displacement. This was the first such initiative by any university in the UK. These DL sanctuary scholarships have proved to be in high demand - in the four-year period from 2018 to 2022, 97 applications were received, and 29 scholarships were awarded.
HyPIR’s DL Master’s sanctuary scholarships were also the subject of doctoral research carried out by Dr Gabi Witthaus, and a corresponding paper entitled 'Refugees and Online Engagement in Higher Education: A Capabilitarian Model'. As part of this doctoral research, Gabi gathered a number of powerful student testimonials, including the following from a student who successfully completed the programme while based in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi: