Displaced Students and Global Engagement: An Opportunity to Partner with IIE

Universities are Partnering with IIE to Leverage its Global Network to Identify and Prepare Talented Displaced Students for Academic Success Around the World

By Jonathan Lembright, Head, IIE Southeast Asia

Students from Minmahaw Education Foundation, a local partner with IIE PEER in Southeast Asia

Students from Minmahaw Education Foundation, a local partner with IIE PEER in Southeast Asia


Many of those who read our blog and engage with IIE likely travel internationally for work or for leisure or perhaps simply have an interest in doing so. The act of traveling often exposes one to countless stories of new people and places. Stories about the culture and attitudes in countries that, once visited, become more nuanced and complex. Often, the outcome of the resulting cognitive dissonance is a fresh understanding as new experiences replace old perceptions. The stories we read or watch on television can often be crowded with popular narratives that celebrate success and fame but leave little room for the many sub-plots that escape oversimplified news.

One of these sub-plots is the need for access to higher education among people who have been left out and left behind in the face of conflict and hardship, both longstanding and recent. This is evidenced in many places around the world – including Myanmar, a place that has seen as many as 3 million people become displaced over the past 30 years, now forced to live in and around the border of Thailand. Some are in refugee camps while others find low wage work in the surrounding area. More recently, we’ve seen the issue of roughly 700,000 Rohingya people displaced along the Bangladesh border. There is no clear direction forward and it is testing the resolve of the global community to push toward a comprehensive solution.

Educational interventions in situations like the above have traditionally focused on basic education. This is where IIE is leading in a bold new direction. At IIE, we believe that higher education has an important role to play in these crises, helping displaced persons to secure social and economic mobility for a more stable and peaceful future. When it comes to access, there are many challenges, but IIE has successfully charted a path for identifying and preparing highly-talented displaced students for success as university students.

IIE’s innovative work in this area provides a unique opportunity for universities around the world to partner with us to bridge the seemingly insurmountable chasm between displaced students and a university education. Through our global networks and commitment to students in crisis, we make post-secondary access possible by demystifying the complex documentation process, provided university preparation, and offering higher education institutions direct access to populations of highly motivated and resilient pre-college students.


Students from Minmahaw Education Foundation, a local partner with IIE PEER in Southeast Asia

Students from Minmahaw Education Foundation, a local partner with IIE PEER in Southeast Asia


The case for universities to actively engage and recruit displaced students is not a financial one, and it probably never will be. But there is a strong case as it relates to the historic mission of the social role of the university, to stand as a beacon for those values we aspire to as individuals and societies.


Western Sydney University (WSU), a new partner of IIE’s in this work, is one such example. A number of years ago WSU admitted and supported Deng Adut, a refugee and former child soldier from South Sudan. Deng then graduated with a law degree and was recently named the New South Wales Australian of the Year. View his amazing story below.



As IIE engages more deeply in providing higher education access for displaced students, we welcome institutions of higher education to partner with us in this important work. For those institutions willing to further their missional charge of global engagement, IIE is ready to serve as the bridge to access motivated and talented displaced students.

Please contact peer@iie.org for more information.


In response to the world’s global education emergencies, the Institute of International Education (IIE) developed the Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (IIE PEER), an online clearinghouse enabling displaced and refugee students to connect with educational opportunities so they may continue formal and informal higher education. IIE PEER is part of IIE’s higher education in emergencies initiatives. IIE has been a world leader in international education since 1919. IIE works to build more peaceful and equitable societies by advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity. As a not-for-profit with 18 offices and affiliates worldwide, IIE collaborates with a range of corporate, government and foundation partners across the globe to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs. Follow us on social media: LinkedInTwitterFacebook, subscribe to the newsletter.