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Experts urge better integration of Syrian refugees into academic system

By JT - Mar 13,2018 - Last updated at Mar 13,2018

AMMAN — Jordanian and German higher education experts have come together to discuss better integration of refugees into the Jordanian university system and finding solutions for the high demand of academic careers for refugees, a statement by the German embassy said. 

Organised by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the two-day conference aimed to bring together key Jordanian and German actors in the field of higher education, in order to review the current situation of Syrian refugee students in the Kingdom, and to strengthen the Jordanian universities' role as humanitarian actors. 

In his opening speech, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Adel Tweisi said that Jordan stands on high moral grounds for Syrian students to pursue their higher education, noting that, in the past years, Jordan has paved the way for Syrian students to transfer smoothly into the Jordanian university system. 

Syrian students represent 15 per cent of the international student body in Jordanian higher education institutions, he added. 

German Ambassador to Jordan Birgitta Maria Siefker-Eberle praised the long-standing cooperation between Jordan and Germany, pointing out that, despite tremendous efforts exerted by higher education institutions in Jordan, the access to higher education for refugee students is still insufficient. 

“We cannot afford a dangerous gap in the learning and qualification of Syria's young generation; the generation that one day will have to rebuild Syria. We should therefore unite all our efforts to prevent a 'lost generation',” she stated.

The ambassador stressed the importance of quality education for a sustainable development, citing the efforts of the German government in this regard. 

With the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI), Germany is currently supporting 703 Syrian scholarship students in pursuing their studies in Jordan. 

GIZ and the German Academic Exchange Service  are also currently running the “Higher Education creates Prospects for young Syrians and Jordanians” (JOSY)programme, financed by the German ministry for cooperation. Initiated in 2015, JOSY now counts more than 80 scholarship holders, half Jordanians and half Syrians, according to the statement. 

For her part, GIZ Country Director Michaela Baur noted that German universities were also "quite overwhelmed" with the new “target group” of refugee students, noting that this is also a steep learning curve for them to deal with. 

Presidents of major Jordanian universities were present at the event, along with representatives from UNHCR, UNESCO, international donor organisations and German university experts. 

During various working sessions, the participants identified the "great innovation potential" induced by the presence of Syrian students in the Kingdom's higher education system, noting that it could help reinvent the concept of universities by including innovative formats, such as blended learning and holistic student counseling, the statement said.

Major recommendations were formulated, such as the provision of a study focusing on the needs of refugees and better coordination between universities. Participants also called for better coordination within the Jordanian government and its donors, recommending the creation of an institution platform in this regard. 

The first JOSY conference took place on April 19, 2017, in Berlin, initiating a fact-finding mission to analyse different study options, admission framework and requirements for Syrian refugees, the statement concluded.

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