The Australian Refugee Welcome University Sponsorship Consortium, being led by the Australian National University, includes 12 university partners and will propose a blueprint for refugee resettlement in Australia.
“Refugees have historically made a very important contribution to modern Australia, building the successful, harmonious multicultural society we have today,” said co-lead of ARWUSC and ANU professor Bronwyn Parry.
The consortium will offer displaced students “the chance to re-start their educational journeys and to bring their skill and expertise to Australia”, Parry continued.
“The consortium will represent the higher education sector and intends to work closely with the Federal government and other key organisations in the not-for-profit and business sectors, including the Refugee Council of Australia, to explore ways to introduce global best practice models of refugee education into Australia.
“No such co-ordinating body currently exists in Australian higher education, but is it essential – not only to secure the future of currently displaced students around the globe but also to help them to realise their full potential as future citizens of Australia.”
Charles Darwin University, Charles Sturt University, Curtin University, Deakin University, Griffith University, the University of Canberra, the University of Melbourne, the University of South Australia, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Tasmania and Victoria University are all included in the consortium.
The group looks “forward to expanding the partnership as other universities join”, Parry added.
The government of Australia has committed to increasing its annual Refugee and Humanitarian Program to 20,000 places in 2023/24, and to welcoming an additional 10,000 refugees over time through “complementary pathways”.
“We know education is the key to a new life,” ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said.
“Global displacement has reached the highest level on record. By mid-2022, there were more than 32 million refugees around the world.
“Global displacement has reached the highest level on record”
“Yet, fewer than a quarter of refugee youth have access to secondary education and only six per cent are enrolled in tertiary education.”
In 2019, UNHCR set the target of 15% of refugees worldwide to be enrolled in higher education by 2030, from a 3% base rate.
Online institution University of the People last year said that if each of the globe’s 31,000+ universities were to enrol 15 refugee students, the refugee higher education crisis would “be over”.
Schmidt added that the risk of young people having their educational journey disrupted by conflict has “never been greater given the current global crises in Afghanistan, Sudan, and more recently in Gaza and the Middle East”.
“We need to do something to address this, and this team of higher education experts, led by ANU, is leading the charge with the help of the Australian government,” the vice-chancellor said.
Early in 2023, the US announced the ‘Welcome Corps’, through which private sponsors will be matched with refugees approved for resettlement by the state department. In its first iteration, the US program hopes to support 5,000 refugees.
Associate professor of Migration and Education at ANU and co-leader of the new ARWUSC, Sally Baker, noted that the Australian project will also benefit Australian society by increasing the understanding and welcoming of refugees and “boosting the economy through the contributions of highly educated and networked refugee graduates”.
“Most importantly, it will help people in need build a better future—this is exactly what our universities are about,” Baker concluded.