IIE Student Emergency Initiatives, A 2018 Retrospective

Three students in a row walking away from the camera outside

As we dive into 2019, we would like to reflect on the accomplishments of IIE PEER in the past year. Our commitment to working towards a more sustainable future through education is decades old, beginning with those facing persecution in World War II. As the Institute of International Education has grown, so has its mission to promote global understanding and cultural exchange through international education. IIE’s Student Emergency Initiatives (SEI) which IIE PEER is part of, has been administering scholarships and creating partnerships to expand the global access to higher education since 2010.



In March 2018, IIE PEER entered its second year of connecting displaced students with higher education opportunities on iiepeer.org. We proudly held 600+ opportunities in the database but sought to expand our reach and assistance. This led to the launch of our global expansion to 10 countries, in addition to Syria, in South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Over 10 weeks we highlighted the higher education difficulties faced by refugees from these countries and added opportunities for these student populations. Our global expansion continues today as we research more scholarships, language courses and vocational training opportunities to host on the IIE PEER database. Should you have information on opportunities, please email us at peer@iie.org

While we expand our database with a look towards the vital need for scholarships, we also recognize the barriers to university education do not stop at funding. University admission has proven to be challenging for students navigating unfamiliar higher education systems and who have no access to guidance and counselling. To help assists displaced students in bridging the admission gap, IIE PEER launched five global advising programs in the United States, Canada, Lebanon, Kenya, and Thailand. Through collaboration and partnerships with experts in the field we look forward to supporting displaced students gain university admission.

Saw Thein Soe with Ning, Program Administrator in Thailand

Our advising pilot in Thailand, IIE PEER PREP, has already made large strides in connecting local refugee students to higher education. Our team has implemented two small-scale programs to help Karen students hailing from the the Mae La refugee camp on the border of Myanmar. IIE PEER’s first scholarship recipient will begin studies at Asia-Pacific International University this year, and plans to return to his home after receiving an Education degree to teach. Through the IIE PEER PREP program, we look forward to playing a role in connecting even more students with well-deserved university opportunities. Learn more about the IIE PEER PREP program from the Head of IIE Southeast Asia, Jonathan Lembright, and read reflections from Katherine Miller's visit to the Mae La refugee camp. 

As 2018 came to an end, we held IIE PEER’s first workshop with AACRAO on the Best Practices in Admitting Displaced and Vulnerable Students to U.S. Universities. The workshop was attended by university admissions officers and education in emergencies professionals committed to diversifying campuses. Today, we are preparing for the first annual IIE PEER Forum which will occur in April. More information on the IIE PEER Forum will be released at the end of January 2019. 




In 2018, IIE Student Emergency Initiatives supported 170 students. Following the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, IIE’s Emergency Student Fund supported 60 students from affected countries with emergency funding to continue their studies in the United States. Read the story of one supported student from Dominica. Today, the IIE Emergency Student Fund is also lending support to Venezuelan students in the United States. We completed the year by selecting 59 students as ESF awardees and are in the process of distributing their funding.

In 2016, IIE SEI launched the Scholarship Fund for Syrian Students. After receiving thousands of applications, we are proud to have selected, placed and successfully supported 26 students with full scholarships at universities in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland and Turkey.

Finally, thanks to generous support from the Open Society Foundation, we awarded 25 Travel Grants to Syrian students. These grants provided crucial funding for student flight and visa costs. All recipients have started their studies in Fall 2018 and we look forward to hearing of their forthcoming accomplishments. 




We look forward to continuing our support of displaced students around the world and tackling other barriers to higher education access. We are interested in hearing more about you and your involvement in the field of higher education in emergencies. Let us know your own interests and what you would like to see from us in 2019! 


-Written by Sixtine Berquist, Global Education in Emergencies Analyst

Published on January 8, 2019 on LinkedIn.