Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie

Including young refugees in the higher education system of their host country

Location: France, Belgium, Lebanon, Burundi

Graduation ceremony for refugee students at Université Grenoble Alpes, May 2018    © CUEF/Marion Bergeron/2018

Graduation ceremony for refugee students at Université Grenoble Alpes, May 2018

© CUEF/Marion Bergeron/2018

The number of adolescents and youth is at an all-time high globally, and young people often form the majority of the population of countries affected by armed conflict.  Obstacles to refugee education increase with age: only 1% of refugees attend university, compared to 37% globally. Many young adult refugees’ (18+) aspirations are hampered by their disrupted education and lack of recognised qualifications in host countries, or the inability to communicate effectively in the language of their host country. 

Enabling young adult refugees to return to higher education can be key in enabling them to integrate successfully into the labor market in the host country or later in their country of origin.  Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) along with Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Ministries and private foundations have launched a program to support Francophone higher education institutions that host young adult refugees with initial training in French.

Three calls, supported by various public and private partners, were launched by the AUF in 2016, 2017, 2018, funding respectively 25, 37 and 42 university projects in France (mostly), Belgium, Lebanon and Burundi. The number of young migrants admitted has increased from about 1000 (in 2016) to 2000 (in 2018).

In addition to learning French, young migrants are guided in their administrative procedures and directed towards fee free rewarding university courses. A steering committee bringing together the co-funders selects the quality projects, distributes the grants and carries out an evaluation according to several indicators (number of refugee students, country of origin, gender, French test, continuation of studies).

The program is supported by various public and private bodies (Organisation internationale de la Francophonie-OIF, Ministries, Foundations) and most importantly by the host universities which provide logistical and human resources.

The program is now seeking more funding, both national and international, and hopes to be extended to other countries, especially in Africa, where many refugee camps exist.

For more information please contact Prof. Annick Suzor-Weiner,