The Syria Crisis was highlighted by students and higher education experts meeting to discuss the recognition of higher education qualifications for refugees.
Refugees and displaced persons face special challenges in respect of access to education, one of which is the assessment and recognition of qualifications and access where documentation is missing or incomplete.
On 29 February, 2016, the 7th Meeting of the Committee of the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region also known as the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) was held at the UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.
UNESCO and the Council of Europe convened the committee of representatives from 53 States Party to the LRC, who adopted the Statement on the Recognition of Qualifications held by Refugees, Displaced Persons and Persons in a Refugee-like Situation which invites them to fully implement its provisions.
A follow-up event, also jointly organized, entitled “Recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation,” was held at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris on 1 March, 2016.
More Syrian refugees seek qualifications
At this meeting speakers from Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Turkey shared experiences on how their countries were facing the challenge of increased numbers of refugees due to the five-year Syria Crisis and how to integrate them quickly through higher education and employment.
Mr Joachim Kallevig, Head of Section for recognition of professional qualifications, Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) said: “Recognition is not just a technical exercise, it is the key to building inclusive societies. Qualification assessments must be early, fast, effective and accessible.”
He said NOKUT was proposing a shared, transnational European Qualifications Passport which would enable refugees to move between European countries without going through additional recognition procedures.
Flexibility key to managing increased numbers of refugees
Mr Abdullah Cavasoglu, Executive Board member, Council of Higher Education, in Turkey said that there were more than three million refugees in Turkey, which shares a 900 km border with Syria.
“We have 350,000 Syrian children in school but 400,000 unable to access it.”
Mr Cavasoglu said that higher education was freely accessible by all but that more teachers and classrooms were needed to cope with the influx. “There have been 2000 applications from Syrian academics alone and that 350 of them were now working in Turkish higher education institutions,” he said.
Ms Ulrika Axell, Senior Credential Advisor of ENIC-NARIC Sweden said there had been a 25 per cent yearly increase in refugees over the last 4 years. As an illustration, in 2012 Sweden took 107 Syrian refugees but that figure was close to 4000 in 2015.
UNESCO, which is the only United Nations agency with a mandate in higher education, is elaborating a Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications which would facilitate academic mobility, improve quality and enhance international cooperation in higher education. A preliminary draft of the convention will be submitted to the General Conference at its 39th session (2017).