25 Sep 2015

Open University to deliver academic programmes for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon

The Open University (OU) is set to team up with The British Council to deliver academic programmes to displaced Syrian refugees who have temporarily settled in Jordan and Lebanon.

English, French and German language skills will be taught in classrooms by the British Council to approximately 3000 Syrians and disadvantaged Jordanian students, with around 300 of the highest achieving students progressing to Open University accredited online degree courses. There will also be opportunities for at least 400 students who have completed a language course to continue their studies by taking a short online course on the OU’s social learning platform, FutureLearn. While not accredited, these free short courses provide learners with knowledge and skills that will help them to earn a living or find a job when they return to Syria.

Since the Syrian crisis began over four years ago, continuing and widespread violence has led many young people to abandon university and higher education courses, while others have been prevented from starting. The three-year project will enable Syrian refugees and disadvantaged Jordanians to continue with their studies, or access higher education for the first time.

Previously, several NGOs and international organisations (including the British Council) have tried to provide higher education opportunities to young Syrians, however, the focus has mostly been on providing primary and secondary education. Consequently, the number of people excluded from higher education is enormous.

Steve Hill, Commercial Director at The Open University, said:

“This is a much-needed and relevant project which combines the world-leading expertise of the OU and the British Council.

“Educating young Syrians and building the capacity of refugees living in host communities will benefit them in the present and in the future.”

The ultimate aim of the project is to support the rebuilding of Syria after the conflict ends by establishing opportunities for displaced learners to find their way back into formal and information education.

In Jordan, Syrian refugees now represent an almost 10 per cent increase in the population of six million. In Lebanon, this figure is 20 per cent, or one in five people. This has placed great strain on already scarce resources.

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

The OU was given an overall satisfaction rating of 90% in the latest National Student Survey, making it one of only three Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to consistently score 90% or above every year since 2007. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC and has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to co-producing prime-time series such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, Britain’s Great War, I Bought a Rainforest and Business Boomers. Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 66 million downloads.
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