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RESCUE, Refugees Education Support in MENA Countries

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Oct 17, 2019 / 0 Comments

RESCUE aims to help the Partner Country Universities in Iraq (KRG), Lebanon, and Jordan in structuring an effective response to the refugee crisis, by creating ad hoc units (the Refugee Student Operational Support Unit – R-SOS). Specific services and ad-hoc solutions will support refugee students in resuming their academic training path. 


Lead Authority or Organization: UNIMED, Mediterranean Universities Union  

Area: Iraq (KRG), Lebanon, Jordan

Beneficiaries: Local Higher Education Institutions

Timeline: October 2016 – October 2019

Human Resources: 2 focal points per university for the project management, plus 4 staff from UNIMED fully involved in the process of quality of coordination

Funding Amount: €947,665

Sources of Funding: European Commission, Erasmus+, KA2 – Capacity-building in the Field of Higher Education


Context and Challenges


RESCUE aims to reinforce the capacity of higher education institutions in responding to the refugee crisis, thanks to the R-SOS activities. R-SOS activities are directed towards refugees, IDPs, and local communities in order to reduce social and local tensions, integrating students rather than dividing them. 

R-SOS Units operate following both a horizontal and a vertical dimension. While the empowerment of services already available will build the horizontal dimension mainly through study orientation, the vertical dimension will work to further develop these services to fit the needs of universities and students.


Actions and Reported Results

The project went through the following steps:

  • Needs assessment. A needs assessment of partner universities was conducted regarding 
    the refugee influx and best practices. 
  • Action planning. On the basis of the first results and the selected best practices, a specific, tailor-made action plan is currently being designed to suited the needs of each target university. 
  • Launch of R-SOS Units. Following the action plans’ definition, at least one pilot course per R-SOS Unit will be launched and their operation will be monitored and supported by European experts in order to optimize their functioning. The project also plans to include NGOs, governmental organizations and other international organizations in the training process. 
  • Dissemination. In the future, at least one conference per year will be organized for dissemination and awareness purposes in each one of the partner countries.


Reported Results

  • Improved governance. R-SOS Unit staff supports a better orientation process for refugees, IDPs, and local students towards scholarship opportunities and their access to international mobility schemes. 
  • Improved capacities of local staff. R-SOS Unit staff benefit from high-level training from EU universities through a capacity-building scheme.
  • Improved networking for local universities. R-SOS Unit act as a local hub for gathering information, set up link with NGO’s and interact with local Institutions.
  • Increased refugee education and skills. Refugees have a better understanding for accessing various university services, and can improve their education and qualifications.
  • Increased social cohesion between host and refugee populations. R-SOS Unit activities help students enjoy the same rights and equal access to education opportunities. Refugee students are increasingly integrated into the local community. 


Evidence and Beneficiary Feedback

This is a relatively new project. For the time being, refugees and IDPs in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq (KRG) are welcoming the R-SOS Unit creation, mainly acknowledging that R-SOS staff will guide them towards local university services and other international opportunities. 


Lessons Learned

Challenges and Risks

  • Tensions with local communities.
  • Problems in recognition of refugees’ prior learning.
  • Low level of English for academic purposes and career.
  • Applying one solution for all is not possible. There is a need for tailored assistance.
  • Local tensions can frustrate project activities by reducing partners’ mobility.


Key Ingredients of Success

  • Actions are designed to address real needs which are based on a detailed needs analysis defined together with local actors.
  • Design of action plans for the R-SOS Unit implementation providing tailored solutions for each partner.
  • Actions are coordinated on the ground together with other project and activities.
  • Continuous consultation process with local partners.

Innovative Aspects

The project will create a new unit in order to implement new services for students and to enhance capacities of local staff. In this respect, the inclusion of NGOs and governmental organizations in the training process of university staff in targeted countries is innovative. A permanent observatory on refugees/IDPs crisis in relation to education/higher education can lead to a better understanding of education as a tool to mitigate the crisis and provide a useful instrument to avoid the risk of a “lost generation” while also preparing for a possible return to their home countries.



The following recommendations can be derived from the project for scaling up:

  • The promotion of a coordination system among all actors can play a supportive role to higher education institutions in the region in order to avoid fragmentation and duplication.
  • General revision of scholarship criteria could benefit both refugee and local students.
  • Avoid a regional, generalized approach in favor of a tailored, local approach with particular attention to local higher education institutions’ needs and constraints.
  • Always involve the local communities in order to avoid social tension.
  • Increase the number of countries involved in the project. An envisaged scaling-up activity could be targeting Syrian IDPs as well.


  • Central government and local authorities.
  • NGOs and civil society organizations were involved during the needs assessment visits in every targeted country to learn more about the local situation and to include them in future dissemination activities for refugees.
  • Universities in the MENA region and Europe.
  • Collaboration with other EU funded projects in order to maximize the impact and guarantee R-SOS Unit sustainability.


This post is part of a series of case-studies published in the CMI 2018 Refugees' Compendium and featuring host communities experiences in hosting refugees with relation to local economic development. The information in-here was provided by focal points in the relevant institutions, NGOs, local governments, etc


Read the story on the compendium


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