Higher Education in Emergencies Around the World: Japan

Article 26 of the Human Rights Declaration states that “Everyone has a right to Education”.

Education is not a luxury but a necessity. Higher Education is strongly liked to increased opportunity, strengthened economic development, improved public health, and safer communities. Even more importantly, it offers young people a path to a sustainable and independent future and provides hope. The hope to build a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Higher Education communities around the globe can and should play a critical role in providing this hope to displaced and refugee students. If the international community fails to provide adequate educational opportunities for displaced youth, we are at risk of losing a whole generation and deprive these students of their right to education.

On December 1st and 2nd, 2018, I had the opportunity to learn more about what Japanese universities and organizations are doing to support refugee students. To encourage higher education institutions and organizations to exchange knowledge and information on hosting refugee students, identify common challenges, and seek solutions to these challenges, the Japan ICU Foundation, and UNHCR co-hosted a symposium at the International House of Japan in Tokyo on the topic of “Supporting Refugees in Higher Education: Japanese Models and Next Steps”. 

Panelists presenting at a conference in front of a crowd

In recent years, academic institutions and civil society organizations in Japan have implemented a number of programs and scholarships to support refugee students in Japan such as the Refugee Higher Education Program (RHEP) and the Japanese Initiative for the Future of Syrian Refugees (JISR), and the Syrian Scholars Initiative (SSI) launched by the Japan ICU Foundation in 2017.

The symposium was attended by faculty and staff from twenty universities, as well as members of relevant non-profit organizations and government ministries. My colleague Dr. Wesley Milner, Executive Director of International Programs and Professor of Political Science & International Studies at the University of Evansville and I were fortunate to share our work in the field of higher education in emergencies with our Japanese colleagues and learn more about this specific field of work at Japanese universities. 

Wesley Milner and Nele Feldmann in conversation

While each country is facing unique challenges in providing educational opportunities to refugee and displaced students, key questions from identifying and admitting students to language proficiency are similar. The biggest similarity however is the desire of higher education institutions from Japan to the United States to host refugee and displaced students and make good on their promise to provide educational opportunities for all.


-Written by Nele Feldmann, Head of IIE Student Emergency Initiatives