Bard College and Open Society University Network Pledge Support to Expand Refugee Access to Higher Education Impacting Thousands of Refugees and Displaced Youth
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY—Bard College, representing the Open Society University Network (OSUN), led several panels at the second Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland (December 13–15, 2023), and has made significant pledges to support expanding access to higher education for refugees. Over the next four years, Bard has committed to supporting 425 refugee and displaced students through in-person degrees on its main and branch campuses and online degrees in partnership with Parami University in Myanmar. This pledge will be fulfilled by 2027, when the next Global Refugee Forum is scheduled to take place.
Bard is also representing OSUN in coleading the UNHCR's 15by30 Multistakeholder Pledge, a global initiative to galvanize concrete support for the goal of increasing refugee enrollment in higher education from 7% to 15% by 2030. Together, OSUN partners have impacted over 80,000 refugee and displaced youth since the founding of the Network.
As part of their pledge, OSUN partner institutions will support access to higher education for displaced students in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and other locations. American University of Afghanistan, Arizona State University, Bard College Annandale, Bard College Berlin, Sciences Po, and SOAS, are among the institutions who have signed on to fund more than 16,000 scholarships supporting a pipeline pilot program that equips students with the necessary critical, analytical, and digital literacy skills they need to advance in higher education and professional careers.
In addition to the contributions from OSUN educational institutions, D2L, an online learning company, has announced that it will partner with OSUN to contribute even more scholarships so refugee students can access the innovative pilot program. The program is based in OSUN’s Hubs for Connected Learning Initiatives, which serve the students in Dadaab and others throughout Eastern Africa, the MENA region, and South Asia.
At the 2023 Global Refugee Forum, representatives from Bard College, including two Bard-affiliated students Aisha Khurram, an undergraduate at Bard College Berlin, and Mulki Mohamed, an OSUN Hubs student, played key speaking roles in high-level events.
Bard College Berlin student Aisha Khurram, who is refugee student leader and member of the Global Compact on Refugees Education Alliance, was a moderator during the forum’s opening plenary, taking the stage alongside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the King of Jordan, the Undersecretary of State, and the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, among other international dignitaries. In her remarks, Khurram emphasized the importance of peer-to-peer support, which has been a key element of her Bard education. She said that “being a refugee student is like navigating a maze blindfolded, and in that maze, peers are the guiding lights.” She further noted that peers are able to support refugees in “turning shared experiences into a collective strength.”
In another forum panel, OSUN Hubs student Mulki Mohamed spoke about how being part of the Bard network has opened up worlds of opportunities for her. As a student leader, she noted the importance of engaging students across boundaries to “amplify refugee students’ voices, highlighting challenges, and recognizing contributions.”
Jonathan Becker, vice president for academic affairs and director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Bard, is a colead on the 15by30 Multistakeholder Pledge and spoke at the forum about the benefits for all of achieving 15% of refugees in higher education by 2030. “What Bard and OSUN do is most emphatically not ‘do-gooderism’—we are working with some of the most talented young people in the world who enhance learning of all of our students.”
Rebecca Granato, who is cochair of the UNHCR Global Task Force on Education Pathways and associate vice president for Global Initiatives at Bard, moderated a third country solutions panel that looked at the educational journey of a refugee and included ministers from the governments of Australia, Philippines, and Burkina Faso, as well as representatives from global universities. OSUN also convened a panel, “The Power of University Networks to Move the Needle on Refugee Higher Education,” with representation from Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Réseau MEnS and the Global Refugee Youth Network.
“Bard has been bringing refugees and other displaced people into our classrooms for decades, and today we also bring the liberal arts and science into refugee camps in East Africa, the Middle East. and South Asia,” said Granato. “Educating those affected by displacement is not just part of our civic mission: it also directly benefits other matriculated Bard and OSUN students whose experiences are enhanced by such inspiring and talented young people from all over the world.”
Held every four years, with the first in 2019, the Global Refugee Forum is the world’s largest international gathering on refugees. Convening heads of state, NGO actors, university networks, and other partners, the forum is an opportunity for key stakeholders to come together to advance the Global Compact on Refugees. For higher education, this means mobilizing global partners to achieve the goal of enrolling 15% of refugees in higher education by 2030, which currently sits at 7%.
In addition to Bard College, other OSUN partners, including Sciences Po, SOAS, Bard College Berlin, American University of Afghanistan, and Arizona State University, have also made significant pledges to expand refugee access to higher education, with total numbers impacted in the thousands worldwide. Bard College and the Central European University cofounded OSUN, with the support of the Open Society Foundations, and run the network.
The Open Society University Network (OSUN) is a global network of educational institutions that integrates learning and the advancement of knowledge—in the social sciences, the humanities, the sciences and the arts, on undergraduate and graduate levels—across geographic and demographic boundaries, promotes civic engagement on behalf of open societies, and expands access to higher education for underserved communities. opensocietyuniversitynetwork.org
About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 13 programs; eight early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 163-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.
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