NEW YORK, September 25, 2012—The crisis in Syria has created an academic emergency, with the break-down of higher education within the country and major obstacles facing Syrian students and scholars who are studying or teaching outside of Syria. There is an urgent need to provide emergency assistance to these students and scholars to enable them to continue their academic work in safe haven countries until they can return home.
To invest in the future of Syria, the Institute of International Education, in collaboration with Jusoor, a newly established organization focused on engaging the global Syrian diaspora in the economic and social development of Syria, and Illinois Institute of Technology, announced this week at the annual Clinton Global Initiative that it will lead an initiative to provide emergency support to Syrian students and scholars. The three organizations together have committed a total of $2 million, and IIE is now seeking donors to provide additional financial resources for this critically important work, and universities to provide scholarships for students and serve as host campuses for scholars, with the goal of mobilizing a total of $5 million in support. Colleges, universities and others who wish to help can join IIE’s Consortium in Support of Higher Education in Syria.
While humanitarian efforts are underway to provide displaced Syrians with the basics of food, water, and shelter, the education needs of Syrians are being met only on a minimal basis and even then focusing on primary schooling. Many Syrian families have been displaced or are living in refugee camps, with limited access to education, while others are either afraid to send their children to school or are coping with schools that have been destroyed in the violence. Higher education faces a similar plight, with many students unable to attend classes and complete their degrees, due to continued violence and campus closures or disruptions. There are very few resources or coordinated programs to assist Syrian students and scholars at the college and university level, whether within or outside of the country.
The Institute of International Education has announced a Commitment to Action that will enable the following work at the higher education level within the next year, with more to be provided in future years:
- Provide IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) fellowships to up to 15 senior, threatened academics from Syria.
- Provide IIE Emergency Student Fund (ESF) grants to up to 100 Syrian students whose education has been interrupted by the crisis.
- Provide scholarships to up to 50 Syrian students to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
- Build a consortium of universities around the world who will offer scholarships to assist threatened Syrian students, with a goal of 50 new scholarships in the next year.
The Institute of International Education has a long history of mobilizing support to help students and scholars in need throughout the world. IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund provides fellowships for established scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. IIE's Emergency Student Fund provides emergency grants to students who are studying outside their home countries and whose sources of support have been impacted by natural disaster or crisis. Earlier this year, IIE provided 46 Emergency Student Fund grants to enable Syrian students on U.S. college and university campuses who face urgent financial need due to the current situation in Syria to continue their education. These grants are made possible in part by generous support from members of the Syrian-American community.
"Syria needs students to continue their university education and scholars to continue their academic work so that, even in the midst of crisis, the country is producing the leadership and knowledge necessary for a successful future," said Institute of International Education President and CEO Allan E. Goodman. "With this commitment and with the generosity of additional donors, we will be able to assist Syrian students and scholars whose expertise will be so urgently needed as the country begins to rebuild," said Dr. Goodman.
"One of the saddest things about the tragedy unfolding in Syria is the impact it is having on Syrian youth," commented Rania Succar, a founding member of Jusoor. "For the millions of young people whose hopes, dreams and in many cases safety have been shattered by the situation around them, education is perhaps the most precious gift we can provide to them. This generation has grown up with big dreams for what they hope to accomplish; so many of them will no longer be able to attend school this year. Along with IIE and IIT, we are working to find creative and scalable solutions to give hope and purpose back to the young people in Syria." According to Ms. Succar, "It is one of the best investments we can make to safeguard the future of the country."
Illinois Institute of Technology Vice Provost Gerald Doyle explained that the university has demonstrated a strong culture and history of community service and engagement at the local and international level and a spirit of giving back to society. "After hearing about IIE’s Emergency Student Fund for Syria at the Institute’s internationalization conference, the Illinois Institute of Technology began to work with Jusoor to launch the Syria Educational and Scholarship outreach initiative to immediately provide educational opportunities for students from Syria who were impacted by the civil war and violence of the last 20 months. In this partnership, we set out to create extraordinary educational opportunities for young women and men to further advance the dreams and professional aspirations of these students for their country, their region, and the advancement of global understanding, prosperity, service, and peace."
One of the first students to come to the United States to study with the help of the IIT Syrian scholarships said, "I would love to go back to my country when I finish my degree. I hope I can do really big things...as an architect, maybe I can do something to rebuild my country."
A computer science student echoes the sentiment of many of the scholarship recipients when he says, "The scholarship will change my life dramatically. They saved me; saved my life; saved my dream...and saved my future! They made a huge effort to get me here to the United States, and I am really grateful for what they have done." (A video produced by the Syrian scholarship recipients captures the perspectives of the first few students to arrive on campus.)
IIE, IIT and Jusoor will collaborate with the Department of State’s EducationUSA network to help ensure Syrian students are aware of the opportunities that are available through this initiative. EducationUSA-Syria provides accurate, comprehensive and current information about U.S. higher education and guidance to qualified Syrian students to access opportunities for study in the United States.
Each organization will focus on what they do best, combining and leveraging capabilities for maximum impact. IIE will give out the SRF and ESF grants, coordinate the university consortium, and serve as a central clearinghouse or "matchmaker" between Syrian students needing help and universities offering help. Jusoor will mobilize support among the Syrian community and provide information on Syrian students and scholars needing help. IIT will award its own scholarships and also serve as a resource and model for other universities interested in doing similar work.
In this way, each organization working together can achieve more than the sum of their activities, to save a critical part of the intellectual capital of Syria through the Clinton Global Initiative philosophy of "Together, we can do more."
Effective immediately, the Institute of International Education is issuing the following calls:
IIE is actively seeking contributions to help support this commitment.
About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 18 offices worldwide and over 1,000 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.
Jusoor is focused on bringing together and engaging Syria's global diaspora community in efforts related to economic and social development. In less than a year, Jusoor's network has grown to 3,000 individuals in more than 20 countries. Our current programs focus on mentoring students in Syria, providing scholarships, and support research and idea generation related to Syria's development and future. Jusoor is a strictly non-political organization.
About the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
Illinois Institute of Technology is a national, technological, Ph.D.-granting research university, with world-renowned programs in engineering, architecture, the sciences, humanities, psychology, business, law, and design. Founded in 1940 and tracing its roots back to the 1890s with the foundings of Armour Institute of Technology and Lewis Institute, IIT brings a focused, interdisciplinary approach to education, including the Interprofessional Projects Program. With five campuses throughout the Chicago area and alumni around the world, IIT pairs the educational and cultural experiences of America's Second City with the small feel of an undergraduate population of just over 2,700 and total population of just over 7,800.
About the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA Network
EducationUSA is a network of more than 400 advising centers around the world, supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. As a part of this network, the virtual educational advising office for Syrian students offers free, virtual college counseling and guidance to students interested in studying in the USA. This includes students interested in undergraduate, graduate, or non-degree programs. The advisor can discuss topics such as the admissions process, standardized testing, how to select a university, and financial aid.
About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,100 commitments, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion. CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world. For more information, follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.