Opening up education for refugees

Kiron Open Higher Education is a German non-profit organization providing higher education to refugees in their host country.

Since 2015, the EU has struggled to respond to the influx of migrants and refugees entering the continent, in Germany alone, more than one million people have entered the country and over 476,000 asylum applications have been received. A key aspect of the challenges around migrant populations is the limited infrastructure that exists to support them. Less than 1 per cent of refugees globally have access to higher education, preventing them from fulling participating in a range of occupations, fulfilling their economic potential and integrating within society.

The Challenge

According to the UNHCR there are 4 main obstacles refugees face when it comes to accessing higher education: the need for legal documentation, high tuition fees, limited capacity in educational institutions and language barriers. These circumstances mean that during the long process of seeking asylum, refugees are prevented from continuing or starting their education, unable to learn or search for job opportunities. This not only limits refugees’ rights to an education, but also makes it difficult for them to build a new life and contribute to society, which is key to maintain global stability in the face of the current refugee crisis.

The Solution — An innovative education model

Kiron Open Higher Education is tackling this issue by offering a blended learning model with online and offline services to overcome these obstacles and empower refugees to live a productive life. The students can study online for up to 2 years before being transferred to a partner university to continue their studies. Kiron’s vision is to provide millions of refugees worldwide the opportunity to graduate with a fully accredited university degree, free of charge.

The challenges refugees face when it comes to obtaining higher education are overcome by:

· Enabling students to enrol in university without immediate proof of legal documentation — students do not have to wait for their legal status to be completed and they can study during their resettlement process.

· There is no language requirement to access the online platform. The only assessment is in identifying the English level students already have and working on build the language skills required to attend partner universities

· There are no admission fees. Costs are lower in comparison to traditional courses as content is presented online. Costs are covered through funding, investments and donations.

· As courses are online and students are only transferred to universities after two years, there is less pressure on the university system in relation to their total capacity

The online and offline learning delivers accessible, sustainable, and cost-effective education. Students have the flexibility to study from anywhere in the world and adjust to their own schedule. The online platform is accompanied by online tutoring and offline services such as the Buddy Programme, Mentoring Programme, Study Hubs and Career Services, thus giving their students all the support they need. Up until now, the NGO has over 1,500 students, 22 partner universities, and 4 study tracks — Business & Economics, Computer Science, Engineering, and Social Sciences. Their full programme is being implemented in France, Turkey, Jordan, and potentially in Lebanon.

Kiron’s work has a systemic positive impact, transforming not only refugees’ lives, but the society, economy and educational system around them. Their innovative education model is an exciting project because it supports and integrates refugees in their host countries. Kiron engineering student Kashif Kazmi, 21, fled from his small Pakistani town on the Afghan border and he reflects, “We want to flourish, we don’t want to be a crisis. We want to be the solution, to do something for society, for the planet. For that, education is the only option. Kiron is hope for us, it means we get up in the morning in hope, we go to sleep in hope.”

The educational tools provided by Kiron gives refugees a chance to thrive in the countries that they have journeyed to, by participating and contributing to their communities.

By Daniela Bach, Education Volunteer at Ashoka UK. To learn more about the UBS social innovators programme please visit:

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.