The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs of the American University of Beirut provided counselling and a recognition service to help refugees understand the equivalent of their Syrian qualifications and how to apply to Lebanese universities.
“Prior to the [Syrian] crisis there was not much movement for academic purposes between Syria and Lebanon,” said Knox, of the British Council. “Admission offices in Lebanese universities were not used to assessing Syrian qualifications. The Issam Fares Institute built a tool to help them recognise equivalents of these qualifications.”
Continuing the Mission
Like the original HOPES programme, HOPES-Leb is also funded by the Madad Fund and implemented by DAAD, Campus France and Nuffic.
Carsten Walbiner, project director of HOPES-Leb representing DAAD, underlined the programme’s new localised approach.
“Lessons learned, we have a stronger emphasis on the host community,” Walbiner said. “In terms of activities, it is more like we did before. We have 18 Lebanese institutions that receive project funding to cater for the needs of students across Lebanon. We provide short non-degree courses to prepare for university and the labour market in addition to vocational training.”
The programme now caters almost equally to refugees and Lebanese, many of whom can no longer afford to continue their university education because of Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis.
The Lebanese University, the country’s sole public higher education establishment, took most of HOPES scholarship students. The private Lebanese International University (LIU) has been enlisted under the HOPES-Leb programme to cater for Syrians only.
Walbiner explained: “LIU has branches all over Lebanon and it is an affordable and flexible private university. Syrians don’t qualify for certain programmes at the Lebanese University and cannot register without a proper residency permit, while they can at LIU, though they cannot graduate before acquiring their residency permit.”
He added: “LIU has a good price-quality ratio.”
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While refugees from Syria share common challenges with other students studying abroad, such as language and cultural barriers, they face additional disadvantages. As displaced people, many are traumatised, have to work to make an income, and often encounter hostility and discrimination.
Amer Absi, a 26-year-old who was awarded a scholarship for a master’s degree in Arabic language and literature, explained: “I have known all the difficulties every Syrian young man would face, especially financial problems. I will never find the right words to describe how HOPES supported me and helped me to continue my academic journey.”
Awwad, who wants to be a teacher in Lebanon or abroad, also expressed gratitude. “The HOPES programme definitely gave me and other Syrian refugees hope,” he said.