Institute of Education


Rethinking higher education for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey

19 February 2020, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

Middle Eastern student graduating

Dr Kathleen Fincham presents a study based on empirical qualitative research with Syrian refugee youth.

Event Information

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Tejendra Pherali


C3.09 (Level 3)
UCL Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

Within the MENA region, more than 5,000,000 Syrian refugees are currently registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Amongst university-aged refugees, only a small fraction (Jordan – 8%, Lebanon – 6%, Turkey – 1%) are currently enrolled in higher education.

This seminar presents a study that forms a critical investigation into their access to, and experiences with, higher education opportunities provided for them by local and international partners.

Using interview and focus group data, the study examines the availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of higher education opportunities currently on offer for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. It argues that while access to higher education is increasing for refugees within the Syrian context, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of these opportunities to the needs of refugees remains problematic.

By offering a ‘one-size fits all approach’ with fixed notions of refugees’ desired functioning, higher education currently on offer for refugees in the Middle East and North Africa fails to address the non-financial aspects of welfare and refugees’ other capabilities - this may include being part of a community and being respected. In this way, it often falls short of enabling refugees to live lives that they have reason to value.


About the Speaker

Dr Kathleen Fincham

Director of the Centre for Research into the Education of Marginalised Children and Young Adults at St Mary's University

Kathleen works at the nexus of development and humanitarian scholarship, policy and practice. Her professional experience has been wide-ranging and varied, including research, teaching, training, programme and project management, policy analysis, partner coordination and advocacy with education institutions, governments, multi-laterals (UNHCR, UNICEF, UNGEI, European Union) and INGOs (Oxfam Novib, WUSC, British Council) in Canada, the UK, West Asia and Eurasia, North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Kathleen holds a DPhil Education and Development from the University of Sussex, an MSc Gender and Development from the London School of Economics, an MAT (TESOL) from the School for International Training (USA) and a BEd from the University of Alberta (Canada).

Before joining St Mary’s, Kathleen taught at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the UCL Institue of Education (IOE).