Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

In collaboration with humanitarian partners, the Education for Humanity initiative at Arizona State University (ASU) creates and implements relevant and integrative education programs with refugee communities worldwide. Education for Humanity offers a blended learning model combining digital learning tools with in-person support through partner organizations. Since its establishment in 2017, Education for Humanity has impacted over 11,500 learners in 17 countries globally through its English language, college preparatory, and workforce readiness programs.

© Marc Alan Sperber/ASU

In this Article:

  1. Purpose for the Program
  2. Key to the Success of the Program
  3. Key Actors and Participants
  4. Impact and Outcomes
  5. Implementation Steps
  6. Challenges Faced
  7. Resources and Partnerships
  8. Looking to the Future
  9. Contact and Additional Resources

1. Purpose for the Program

According to UNHCR, only 7% of refugees have access to higher education worldwide and it is often much lower in many refugee-hosting countries. The objective of the Education for Humanity program is to offer contextually relevant digital course content that helps refugee learners reach their individual educational ambitions regardless of their location and traditional barriers to accessing education.

2. Key to the Success of the Program

The approach is user-centric, developed to respond to the stated needs and desires experienced by refugee learners in either camp or urban center contexts around the world. In working closely with humanitarian partners, the program is designed to be flexible to the needs of learners and reflective of the environment in which they are learning, allowing for access to educational content regardless of connectivity or electricity constraints.

3. Key Actors and Participants

The Education for Humanity team works with UNHCR, government ministries, and non-governmental organizations to extend educational access to refugees and communities that host them around the world. The team works with community partners to recruit learners from the community to engage in the coursework, leading to either a pathway into higher education or increased skills for the labor market.

5. Impact and Outcomes

Since its inception in 2017, the program has reached over 11,500 learners in 17 countries around the world. In addition to the English language courses, these efforts include the development of Entrepreneurship modules for refugee communities in Uganda and Rwanda, the provision of offline-first access to digital courses in Lebanon, and the establishment of personalized career pathways for resettled refugees in Arizona.

As the co-lead of both the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium and the Alliance for the Education of Women in Afghanistan, Education for Humanity plays a vital role as a sectoral leader, championing the cause of refugee learners and fostering collaboration within connected learning initiatives.

6. Implementation Steps

Here are a few steps to implement a similar program:

  1. First and foremost, It is most critical to listen to the potential students: Understanding their dreams and ambitions and tailoring course content to meet these demands is critical to success.
  2. Secondly, the creation of complementary partnerships to implement the program is essential, resulting in a streamlined offering that leans on the support and ambition of multiple organizations.
  3. Finally, continued evaluation and iteration to improve the program leads not only to better results but also deeper engagement with the students and community at large.

7. Challenges 

It is critical that the portfolio of offerings be reflective of the stated needs of refugee learners, so simply repurposing already created content is often wide of the mark. The challenge with this sensitivity is that it can be cost-intensive, so resources must be prudently allocated to support the responsible implementation of academic programming that includes wraparound support services for learners (technology access, security, time flexibility, etc).

8. Resources and Partnerships

The primary cost of implementing this program is the time and effort of program staff, the technology, and, in some cases, the cost of course content itself. These programs are often only funded in short-term increments, making it challenging to plan sustainable and long-lasting programs.

9. Looking to the Future

The initiative is in a constant state of evolution, most recently prioritizing the utilization of technology that can help learners in the most remote locations access the course portfolio with or without an internet connection. In recognizing the disparity of internet access around the world, the program is seeking to work closely with community organizations to offer a diverse array of educational content across the connectivity spectrum.

10. Contact Information

Name: Nicholas Sabato
Title: Sr. Director, Education for Humanity
Organization: Arizona State University

State: Arizona

< Return to the resource hub

Have Additional Questions?

Want to know more? Please use our expert assistance form to get in touch with the Higher Ed Immigration Portal.

Contact Us