The Student Refugee Program (SRP) is the only one of its kind to combine resettlement with opportunities for higher education. Launched in 1978 with the placement of one student at Carleton University, the program has since grown to support over 130 students per year through active partnerships with over 80 campuses.
As an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder in Canada, WUSC has a longstanding agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. This agreement enables us to bring refugee students to study in Canada as permanent residents. WUSC identifies refugee students who are in need of resettlement and grants permission to WUSC Local Committees at universities, colleges and cegeps across Canada to sponsor in WUSC’s name.
Crucial to the program’s success is its unique youth-to-youth sponsorship model which empowers young Canadian students to play an active role in the sponsorship of refugee students. Our Local Committees raise funds and awareness for the program on their campus and in their community. They also play a critical role in offering day-to-day social and academic support to SRP students.
Going beyond resettlement, the SRP also provides an innovative pathway to integration for young refugees. A 2007 study found that 97 percent of sponsored students had completed or were in the process of completing their post-secondary program with many intending to further their education. The vast majority – 85 percent – had found work in their chosen fields after graduation.
The impact of this program has a ripple effect within the students’ families and communities. By providing refugee youth with opportunities to continue their education, we also reignite their families’ hopes for the future as we equip their children with the knowledge, skills and experiences to build a brighter future for themselves and their families. Such opportunities also encourage young refugees to stay in primary and secondary school in hopes of applying for the Student Refugee Program upon graduation.
Since 1978, the program has supported over 1,700 young refugees to continue their education in safe and supportive environments on Canadian campuses across the country.
Responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Over the course of this past academic year, Canadian universities, colleges and cegeps have demonstrated remarkable leadership in helping those whose lives have been turned upside down by the Syrian crisis.
In September of 2015, we partnered with Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada, to reach out to over 200 post-secondary academic institutions across the country. We challenged them to implement or increase their support of the Student Refugee Program on their campus. Thanks to the commitment of students, faculty and staff at these institutions, the response was – simply put – tremendous.
As a result, with the support of our institutional partners, we welcomed nine additional Syrian students to live and study in Canada this January. This September, we anticipate welcoming an additional 160 youth from refugee contexts in Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya and Malawi, with more than half originating from Syria.
World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is a Canadian international development non-profit organization dedicated to improving education, employment and empowerment opportunities for youth, women and refugees in more than 25 countries around the world. For over fifty years, we have empowered our unique network of post-secondary institutions, private sector partners and volunteers to help build a more equitable and sustainable world for youth. To find out more, please visit wusc.ca.
LOUJIN HOUDAIHED, Former SRP Student, MSc Pharmaceutical Science – University of Toronto
It was a dream for me to get higher education at one of the top universities in the world. [The Student Refugee Program] not only gives you sponsorship to start your life again and to have an education, it also gives you the opportunity to be settled in Canada and be a citizen in the future. I feel thankful to WUSC, University of Toronto, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Canada and everyone who has been involved.
ALFRED ORONO ORONO, Former SRP Student, BA Criminology – University of Alberta
My experiences as a child soldier could have destroyed me, but instead fuelled a passion for championing human rights. In 1993, I finally escaped my captors and spent two years in various refugee camps, until I received the news that a group of young students at the University of Alberta were giving me a chance to pursue my post-secondary education through WUSC’s Student Refugee Program. At a time where I felt powerless, I was given a chance at a better future for myself, my family and my community.
CYRUS SILVERSTRIDER WUSC Local Committee Member, University of Toronto – St. George Campus
I was very inspired by the direct, positive impact I could have in refugee students’ lives by being an active member of our WUSC Local Committee. I realized I could be a friend, a welcoming peer, and a mentor all in one to help make the students’ experiences in Canada the best they can be. The best part about being involved with my Local Committee is the opportunity I get to glimpse the network of brilliant students that have come to study in Canada. I have had the chance to meet so many SRP students, and I have to say, I am humbled by the joy, positivity, and perseverance they all share.