2016/2017 Annual Report // Rapport Annuel 2016-2017

The Student Refugee Program

Paving pathways to resettlement through higher education for refugees

There are more than 11 million refugees under the age of 18 in the world today.

The total number of refugees in the world increased once again in 2016 to 22.5 million. Over half of these refugees (51%) are under the age of 18.

Children and youth in refugee contexts are denied access to opportunities that not only shape their present, but also help define their future. These include access to quality education from primary to tertiary, fair and fulfilling employment, freedom of mobility, and full participation in civic engagement.

Many refugee youth are forced to dropout of school early, taking odd and sometimes dangerous jobs to help their families meet their basic needs. Only 1% of refugee youth have access to higher education.

The Student Refugee Program

at a Glance in 2016/2017


refugee students resettled on Canadian campuses in 2016/2017


Canadian post-secondary institutions sponsored students in 2016/2017


increase in the number of students supported from 2015 to 2016

Higher education provides skills, knowledge, and hope for a better future.

Halting the education of young refugees is not only damaging to the futures of these youth and their families, but to the future of their countries as well. Whether integrated into their country of asylum, resettled elsewhere, or eventually repatriated to their country of origin, higher education can help prepare refugee youth for their future.

For those who do return to their home countries, higher education can support these youth in developing the skills and knowledge they need to ensure a more inclusive rebuilding process to secure more sustainable peace. Opportunities given to these youth today can help prevent further marginalization and exclusion tomorrow.


WUSC is providing resettlement and higher education through the Student Refugee Program.

For nearly 40 years, WUSC has been involved in Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP). As the only Sponsorship Agreement Holder to partner exclusively with Canadian post-secondary institutions, our network has provided more than 1,700 refugee youth with opportunities for resettlement and higher education through our Student Refugee Program (SRP).

Taking an inclusive approach to development requires careful consideration of how we extend our programs to reach more of the most marginalized, the most vulnerable, and the poorest of the poor. That is why refugee populations have long been at the heart of our education programming.

However, even among refugee populations, some groups are more marginalized than others. Being able to place refugee students at Canadian post-secondary institutions requires the SRP to operate at a high threshold of resettlement criteria. Students must have certain linguistic, academic, and soft skills to thrive in the Canadian post-secondary environment. The SRP, therefore, is complementary to our in-camp education programming which supports more refugee youth to develop these skills so that they can one day have access to higher education opportunities like ours.

In 2016/2017, we have also continued to advance global understanding of the unique needs and opportunities facing refugee youth. We participated in and convened multiple meetings with UNHCR, the Government of Canada, and other governments from around the world, including Ireland, Brazil, many members of the EU, the United States, and Qatar. The goals of these meetings were to highlight the need for more educational opportunities for refugees; to highlight the role that the post-secondary community can play in responding to the global refugee crisis; and to share lessons learned and best practices from the SRP in Canada.