Southern New Hampshire University

Global Education Movement: Post-Secondary Education and Employment for Refugee Learners

Lead Organization

Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, New Hampshire, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

SNHU’s Global Education Movement (GEM) transforms lives and communities, and restores hope by offering refugees the opportunity to pursue US-accredited bachelor’s degrees in camps and urban areas while gaining professional skills and work experience. GEM’s evidence-based, student-centered approach offers a comprehensive, context-sensitive, scalable solution to bring high-quality tertiary education to marginalized learners around the globe. The results are unprecedented—with 94.1% of students on track to graduate in 4 years, 88% employed within 4 years of graduation, and SNHU/GEM graduates earning double the salary of their degree-holding peers. In its five current countries of operation--South Africa, Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya and Lebanon--GEM graduates earn the credentials required to become leaders in solving the refugee crisis through employment, advocacy, and community impact. Our long-term plan is to reach 50,000 refugee learners in 20 countries by 2030. MacArthur funding would be catalytic in launching GEM’s scaling process over the next five years.

Problem Statement

Attempts to address the world’s most complex problems are often lacking involvement of the people most negatively affected. This is a particular failure of the humanitarian system, which reinforces and perpetuates the disenfranchisement of the populations they serve. With the skills and educational qualifications to excel in their careers and take on leadership roles, GEM graduates have the power to transform the international humanitarian sector - not as passive beneficiaries but as agents of change.Yet with only 1% of refugees having access to higher education, refugees cannot become true leaders within humanitarian organizations where they would be able to influence the politics and policies that affect their everyday lives. This perpetuates a humanitarian system led by outsiders, void of critical creative problem-solving. In UNHCR’s recent Global Compact [#4], the participation and leadership of the refugee community is considered a key driver in transforming humanitarian aid, acknowledging that “responses are most effective when they actively and meaningfully engage those they are intended to protect and assist.” However, little is being done to make this inclusion an attainable reality on the ground. Higher education offers a clear pathway forward to achieve the goals outlined in the Global Compact. Economic and educational empowerment of marginalized communities gives voice to refugees in the humanitarian field. Refugees require opportunities to gain 21st century skills and internationally-recognized qualifications in order to be meaningful contributors in the humanitarian space and shift the cycle of poverty and despair.

Solution Overview

GEM’s solution enables refugee graduates and their communities to be included in leadership-level positions and decision-making through access to 21st century skills, recognized qualifications, and economic empowerment. SNHU’s competency-based bachelor’s degree requires students to master key skills through successfully completing a series of rigorous and workplace-relevant projects. The degree is an ideal solution for complex refugee learning environments because it untethers the credit hour from seat time. Projects are accessed and completed on students’ timelines rather than a university mandated schedule. This means that students in unstable political and technology environments do not face gaps in learning that they would in more traditional coursework. Furthermore, GEM is committed to documenting learning and evidence from our model in order to encourage other academic institutions to enter the field and close the refugee higher education access gap alongside SNHU/GEM. GEM measures success primarily through graduation and employment rates, with targets of 85% and 75% respectively. Progress also hinges on the number of sites and students served, and ensuring at least five other universities join the field through GEM’s leadership and guidance. By 2030, GEM will transform the individual lives of more than 40,000 refugee learners in 20 countries. GEM will also act as a catalyst to worldwide university involvement in this current crisis. Thus GEM will have a deep impact on student lives in selected geographies while also ensuring additional universities enter the field, thereby broadening our impact and collectively matching refugee access to higher education to the worldwide rate of 34%.

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Project Funders

  • The Audacious Project 2018 - 2020
  • Southern New Hampshire University 2017 - Ongoing
  • The College Board 2017 - 2019

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