Main Results Achieved:
- 400 annual emergency scholarships awarded
- 67 students graduated from Master´s Programs
- 3 students have completed their PhD programs
- 3 students ranked top in Portugal having been awarded excellence prizes
- Up to 350 opportunities provided to students to participate in summer activities and extraacademic programs
- New York Declaration adopted by all UN member States on 19 September 2016 – all committed to promote higher education opportunities in emergencies (paragraph 82)
Main Accomplishments and Figures 2017
Check out the main accomplishments and figures 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016
In the 2017, the Global Platform supported 119 students with scholarships and grants.
- The GP4SYS is fully operational year and manages to maintain a number of scholarships up to around 120 students. Although the figures remained modest, they showed a fairly steady consolidation of the project. Scaling up our program into a more relevant one and achieving widespread impact should be a priority for 2018 - 2019.
- First students completed their degrees under the GP4SYS’ scholarship program and joined the new group of GP4SYS´Alumni which reached 44 members. In 2017, 17 additional students got their Master´s degrees and 1 achieved his BA. Most of the remaining students showed good/very good or even excellent progress in their academic life. Out of 18 students who graduated, 3 will continue their studies, 2 with a PhD and 1 with a MA; 11 students entered the job market and were hired.
- The fact that more students would graduate in the short term made the GP4SYS plan a new chapter in its activities to assist these former students to enter the market job and make a smooth transition. This set of activities compised namely: supporting in legal and administrativge procedures to entitle students to become job-seekers in Portugal; follow-up and support in search for jobs; social-psycological support for students at a critical juncture of their lives; providing opportunities to develop their linguistic skills.
- In 2017, the GP4SYS offered more opportunites to students strengthen their academic / scientific experience and background and enhance soft skills and resilience.Some students participated in Erasmus programs abroad; other students had internships in companies and some others participated in the Summer School co-organised by the GP4SYS and the Youth Department of the Council of Europe.
- Thanks to the partnership established with Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, IP (Portuguese Cooperation Agency), CIAL (Language School) and the Social Services of Nova University of Lisbon, more opportunities for students to learn and improve their proficiency in the Portuguese language are offered each academic year and during summer. In 2017, Around 30 students gathered in Lisbon to attend intensive Portuguese language courses and throughout the academic year more than 17 students registered also.
- Some students are invited several times to participate in media events and international events. An increased number of them got involved in community services and became volunteers in activities connected quite often to the arrival and integration of refugees in Portugal.
- A new call for applications for Syrian students was launched in June and the selection procress concluded. The scholarships should be awarded during the second semester of the 2017 - 2018 academic year.
- Increased efforts to enlarge the network of partners and donors marked a true turning point in terms of raising funds. New, very important partnerships were forged that brought stability for the GP4SYS in the last years. The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa and Santander Bank are among the new partners. Furthermore, some very important partnerships were renewed, notably with the League of Arab States and the Babtain Foundation.
- 2015 was a year of awards for the Chairman of the GP4SYS, which sometimes also expressed the recognition of the achievements made by the GP4SYS under the leadership of President Sampaio - UN Mandela Prize, the Human Rights Award of the Portuguese Parliament and the “2015 Teresa Rosmaninho Prize”, a human rights and women’s rights award of the Portuguese Women Lawyers’ Association.
- New potential strategic partnerships were identified and various proposals of cooperation were prepared with the World Bank, the League of Arab States and WHO, aimed at scaling up our scholarship programme for Syrian students in the Middle East, notably in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq/kurdistan through the European Commission.
- The participation in several international forums and events allowed the GP4SYS to consolidate the international recognition of its work, especially with regard to advocacy for higher education in emergencies and to making the case for additional efforts to boost higher education opportunities for refugees and students in forced mobility together with other international stakeholders.
- In the UN framework, the first report "No Time to Retreat" on the progress made in 2017 in the implementation of commitments submitted at the World Humanitarian Summit, was launched in December. The GP4SYS contributed to the 1st Self Reporting on the Transformation 3E - Eliminate the gaps in education for children, youngsters and young people.
- Relevant progress was also made in implementing a small pilot experience of the Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education in Emergencies (RRM) in Protugal. The cooperation agreement signed in July 2017 between GP4SYS and the Portuguese High Commission for Migrants, made it possible to award 23 scholarships to refugees of various nationalities in Portugal. With this new step, Portugal is at the forefront on the implementation of the commitment made at the WHS held in May 2016 aimed at boosting higher education opportunities for refugees and forced migrants through setting up a RRM.
- The communication strategy is being strengthened notably through the website (www.globalplatformforsyrianstudents.org) and the participation in several social media platforms.
On the basis of our short experience, there are some lessons learned and best practices that can be drawn, such as:
Resettlement of students > be they registered refugees or not – requires close contacts with receiving countries in order to ensure that they are granted full protection and are entitled to health care, legal access and stay, etc. Regarding Syrian students hosted by Portugal, the GP4SYS in close consultation with the Portuguese authorities has dealt with all these issues and offers permanent assistance to students in order to avoid them getting lost in bureaucracies and administrative hurdles.
Admission of Students into Universities and Academic validation of their applications > depending on the higher education regulations of each receiving country, specific negotiations with central authorities and with universities are necessary in order to ensure the admission or transfer of these students who may not be able to produce legal or certified copies of their certificates and transcripts of marks and when there are strict internal procedures for regular admissions. This mediation task was performed by the GP4SYS on behalf of the students before their arrival in Portugal. However the process of validation of previous qualifications often took some time depending on each university/polytechnic but was never a stumbling block.
Integration of Students > providing proximity support and mentoring to students is a key point for the success of this emergency academic assistance. These are not students coming from regular settings. They need extra support and attention. For that reason, efforts of academic mentoring made by host universities, together with efforts directed towards facilitating the psychological well-being of the students and their integration into ordinary local life, are both critical to ensure full success of the program. Cultural diversity issues have also to be taken into consideration by guests and hosts.
Risks > The main risk of this Program is indeed related to the impact on students of the situation in Syria and the fact that they left their families behind. From time to time they feel guilty and anxiety seems to take its toll. Another important risk is related to the efforts that are necessary to adapt to a new country, a new society, a new culture and a new lifestyle, including gastronomy. A third important risk is the language issue, although practical arrangements were found for all in a very satisfactory way.
The Academic Summer break is too long for those who are not able to go on vacation. Remaining alone in an empty campus in particular for people who are prone to feeling guilty and anxious about their families and their future is a situation to be avoided.
Therefore the GP4SYS investes a lot to be able to propose annually a summer program for its students that would combine a mix of cultural and leisure activities as well as internships.
In 2017, the GP4SYS priority was to continue to enlarge the opportunities provided to students to strengthen their technical training through the particopation in workshops, seminars and international meetings addressing topics related to their field of studies. For example, 8 architecture students attended the Porto Academy in July 2017 and 4 PhD architecture students attended W.A.V.E 2017 Workshop on the Syria Rebuilding process organised by the Università luav di Venezia. moreover, 20 students attended in 2017 the Summer School "Young refugees as actors for social inclusion and intercultural dialogue" co-organised by the Council of Europe and the GP4SYS. Some other students improved their linguistic skills in Portugues language by attending summer intensive courses.
Wider Advocacy for Higher Education in Emergencies
“Education not only saves lives in emergencies, but it also sustains life by giving a sense of hope for the future”
Based on best practices and lessons learned with recent crises, namely with Iraq and Syria, there are a key number of questions that have to be addressed if we want to bridge the existing gap such as: how to integrate higher education opportunities into humanitarian responses? How to best coordinate interventions of actors on the ground? How to make financial resources available on time? How to organize and coordinate efforts for the effective implementation of quality programs of higher education during the emergency response?
With this purpose the Global Platform for Syrian Students has been making efforts, together with other partners, to put high on the international agenda the wide topical issue of Higher Education in Emergencies. Read the article published at the Huffington Post: What Will Become of Syria's Students and Scholars?, By Allan E. Goodman (President and Chief Executive Officer, Institute of International Education) and Jorge Sampaio (President of the Portuguese Republic from 1996 to 2006; Chairman of the Global Platform for Syrian Students).
The year of 2015 marked good progress in terms of advocacy made by the GP4SYS at the international stage to raise awareness about the unique role higher education plays in conflict situations and the need for the international community to deliver more higher education opportunities for refugees, IDPs and young people facing crisis situations.
Following up on a first meeting convened in Brussels in December 2014, over 2015 the GP4SYS participated in a number of international meetings on the topic of higher education in emergencies, developed contacts at various levels to promote this cause, notably at political level through the leadership of President Sampaio, chairman of the GP4SYS, and launched a number of studies gathering information and data on higher education in emergencies.
The Annual Report 2018 will be published very soon.