The initiative provides a regional emergency solution to implement an innovative Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) for Higher Education in the Euro-Mediterranean region. This project will enable 300 refugees and students from the host communities to access higher education institutions in the next 3 years.


21 October 2021, Barcelona. The Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) met today at the level of Senior Officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. They endorsed a new regional initiative to support access to higher education for the refugee and displaced populations. They also discussed the preparations of the 6th UfM Regional Forum and the first edition of the annual Day of the Mediterranean, to be celebrated on 28 November 2021. This day was unanimously declared by the 42 Member States of the UfM in November 2020.

In the world, only 1% of refugees of relevant age have access to higher education. To face this issue, and contribute to the UNHCR goal of increasing to 15% the number of refugee students by 2030, the Global Platform for Higher Education received the endorsement of the 42 UfM Member States to its project “Implementing a Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) for Higher Education in Emergencies in the Euro-Med region”.

“Universities and research centres cannot be underestimated as powerful drivers of growth. They act as nerve centres, home to the bold, bright and disruptive sparks of innovation our society thrives on. We must seek to exploit this natural resource to its fullest, allowing our young people to pursue their ambitions in higher education and beyond”, said UfM Secretary General Nasser Kamel. ‎

The Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education in Emergencies in the Euro-Med region

In response to the global emergency that the Covid-19 pandemic has created, this initiative helps refugee and displaced population access higher education institutions by capitalising on their capacities to receive foreign students. The project, with a duration of 36 months, aims at running an emergency two-year scholarship programme for 300 beneficiaries to be implemented in 10 countries (Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey), involving mainly Syrian refugees but not exclusively.

The project provides non-academic support such as mentoring, soft skills training and career development. Furthermore, it aims at setting-up a fully operational mechanism allowing the international community to develop a fast-track entry point that addresses higher education needs in times of crisis. The scholarship programme will pay attention to empowerment opportunities for young women and to studies matching the needs of the new digital era.

“For young men and women from war-torn countries, education opportunities give hope for the future; and for their families and communities back home, it is like a light shining in their dark world. Higher education in emergency situations is often neglected. Yet, it is home to the vital 18-28 age group. It gives protection, contributes to self-reliance and acts as a catalyst for the recovery. Doing more, better and faster is not an option but an obligation that is win-win-win: for humankind, society and the academic community”, said Helena Barroco, Head of the project. 

Rasha, a current beneficiary of the program added: “The scholarship saved my life, physically and emotionally, and gave me the opportunity to live, study and succeed in Portugal. It has changed my life significantly. It allowed me to feel and hope again, and it helped me to break all social chains around me and breathe like a proud woman for the first time in my life. It made me brave to express my feelings and to be myself, and, above all, it made me dare to dream.”

More information

UfM Senior Officials: The Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean meet on a regular basis at the level of Senior Officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the 42 countries. The Senior Officials Meetings (SOM) oversee and coordinate the work of the UfM. They approve the budget and the work programme of the Secretariat. They also discuss the project proposals submitted by the Secretariat for approval and endorsement. UfM Senior Officials take decisions by consensus.

About the promoter of the project: The Global Platform for Higher Education in Emergencies is an experienced organisation which has been running emergency scholarship programmes since 2013, and through this project expects to enlarge the Academic Consortium, to further develop the Financing Facility, and to improve the coordination mechanism. Synergies will be created with other regional initiatives, like the university networks participating in the UfM Dialogue Platforms (UNIMED, Thétys, ESN), the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes or EMUNI, to expand the consortium and promote the initiative.

·         How does the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) For Higher Education in Emergencies Works

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