When refugees seek asylum, what is the role of the education sector?

The number of people displaced by conflict is at the highest level ever recorded; one in every 113 people on the planet is a refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced. And Alexander Betts, global authority on refugees and human migration, believes higher education institutions around the world are uniquely positioned to help turn crisis into chance – opportunities for refugees and society.

Betts, Oxford Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs, alongside coauthor Paul Collier, recently published “Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System” (Penguin, April 2017) to tell us how. The book paints a vivid picture of a society that utilizes the skills and talents of all its human capital, native and migrant, and the authors’ research suggests it’s not only possible, but probable.

“The key to humanizing people is to give them autonomy. The key to autonomy is having access to jobs… to education and training,” explains Betts in a recent article.

In “Refuge,” he tells the story of Syrian refugees setting up shops inside their shipping container dwellings in Jordanian camps – just one proof point among thousands that reveal refugees’ entrepreneurial, resilient and creative spirit. These are ingredients of innovation, and educational institutions are perfectly poised to develop programs that tap into and nurture such qualities, and connect them with the workforce.

What impact will your institution have on humanitarian innovation? Watch Betts’ powerful TED Talk, Our Refugee System is Failing. Here’s How We Can Fix It.