International Education Week Summit

According to the UNHCR, there are 82.4 million people globally who are forcibly displaced from their homes. A staggering figure that requires our attention and actions.  Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees around half of whom are under the age of 18. 

War, conflict, food insecurity, human rights violations and climate change are major drivers of forced migration and displacement, and are contributors to the global refugee crisis. In addition to all these factors, the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, have created a severe humanitarian crisis, and has led many to be displaced and seek refuge somewhere else. According to the Global Trends Forced Displacement report in 2020 by UNHCRabove one percent of the world’s population – or 1 in 95 people – is now forcibly displaced. This compares with 1 in 159 in 2010.

A more specific and targeted question to pose, especially in an educational context, is a highly topical and urgent one: What role can higher education sector play in responding to the global refugee crisis? How can the higher education community be more responsive to the educational and resettlement needs of refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants when they arrive in Canada?

 In  2016,  for example, less than one percent of refugee youth had access to higher education; and according to UNHCR, currently only three per cent of refugees access higher education, with the goal to increase access to education for refugee youth at 15 per cent by 2030. Education is a fundamental human right. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants indicates that education is a critical element of the international refugee response. Moreover, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), “the right to education unlocks other rights when guaranteed, while its denial leads to compounded denials of other human rights and perpetuation of poverty” (UN Commission on Human Rights, 2004, p. 7).

Since 2001, individuals, organizations, colleges, universities, and governments all around the world have been celebrating International Education Week during the third week of November. This week is an opportunity for institutions and global leaders to shed light on the importance of international education.

The Newcomer Students’ Association (NSA) will join many institutions and stakeholders from over 100 different countries to participate and engage in this important week by hosting a summit to discuss the role of higher education in responding to the global refugee crisis. “Universities are sites for knowledge creation and mobilization. They are centers where education can transition to awareness building and advocacy, with potential to lead change through social innovation. The higher education sector can help facilitate solutions to the most challenging and pressing issues facing our society, and the current refugee crisis is one of these global challenges that we all have a moral obligation to addresssays NSA Executive Director.

The summit will focus on the intersection of internationalization, global refugee crisis, and equity, diversity and inclusion principles. Participants of the summit will engage with the following panel discussions:

  1. Internationalization of Higher Education and the Global Refugee Crisis
  2. Access to Higher Education for Refugee and Undocumented Students
  3. A Higher Education Approach to Refugee Resettlement and Integration
  4. Investing in Inclusion: Building Sanctuary and Welcoming Campuses for Refugee Students

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Khalid Arar

Dr. Khalid Arar is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy, College of Education at Texas State University, Texas, USA, and an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Leadership in Education.

For the past two decades, he conducted studies in the Middle East, Europe, and North America on issues of equity, diversity, and social justice in the complex realities of K-12 and higher education. His research agenda has both a domestic, urban, sub-urban, and comparative international orientation. His commitment to challenging global injustices led him in recent years to research education for refugees, displaced people, and immigrants through a social justice lens. He has many studies published in numerous leading educational journals such as Journal of Education Policy, Higher Education Policy, Journal of School Leadership, Journal of Educational Administration, Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, Compare, Journal of Comparative Education,

Gender and Education, Journal of Educational Change, International Journal of Leadership in Education, Cambridge Journal of Education and Review of Education. His recent books include Migrants, Refugees and Global Challenges in Higher Education (Peter Lang Publishing, with Kussai Haj-Yehia, David Ross, & Yasar Kondakci); Education, Immigration and Migration: Policy, Leadership, and Praxis for a Changing World (Emerald Publishing, with Jeffrey Brooks & Ira Bogotch); Turbulence, Empowerment, and Marginalization in International Education Governance Systems (Emerald Publishing, with Alison Taysum), Emotion Management and Regulation in Teaching and Educational Leadership: Research and Practice in Transitional and Developing Societies (Emerald Publishing with Izhar Oplatka);  School Leadership for Refugees’ Education (Routledge) and Neoliberalism and Education Systems in Conflict: Exploring Challenges Across the Globe (Routledge with Deniz Örücü and Jane Wilkinson).

Dr. Julia Colyar

Julia Colyar is the Vice President, Research and Policy at HEQCO, where she works with team members to support the development of research-based policies and practices in Ontario’s postsecondary education sector. Julia joined HEQCO with more than two decades of experience in higher education policy and research as a scholar, teacher and practitioner. Prior to joining HEQCO, Julia was Director of Policy and Sector Collaboration at the Council of Ontario Universities.

She was also an assistant professor of higher education at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the University at Buffalo, and taught graduate courses in student demographics and diversity, qualitative research methods and the sociology of higher education. Her research focused on access and transitions to postsecondary education for low-income and underrepresented students. Julia holds bachelor and master’s degrees in English from the University of California at Davis and the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Higher Education Policy from the University of Southern California.


Internationalization of Higher Education and the Global Refugee Crisis

This panel will discuss how higher education internationalization policies can prioritize, address, and respond to the global refugee crisis. How can we address refugee resettlement and integration through internationalization strategies? What are some of the global and local institutional internationalization strategies that support refugee resettlement efforts?

The panel will shed light on the institutional responses and approaches to global trends and contemporary issues such as the refugee crisis? While higher education institutions can contribute to peace and awareness building, advocacy efforts and rethink refugee narratives through education and research, they also need to be responsive to the resettlement and integration needs of refugees. “A two-pronged approach can be taken to ensure that Canadian higher education institutions can position themselves as global leaders in responding to humanitarian issues through education, teaching and research, and through developing inclusive internationalization policies” Says NSA Executive Director. According to the International Association of Universities, inclusive internationalization is defined as “integrating key concepts of equity, cultural diversity, social responsiveness, and mutual benefits in internationalization”.


Dr. Linyuan Guo-Brennan

Dr. Guo-Brennan is an Associate Professor of International and Global Education at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Her research and teaching focus on global leadership, internationalization in higher education, global citizenship education, international and comparative education, teacher education, curriculum and diversity, equity and inclusion in educational policy, leadership, and praxis. She has published extensively on higher education, global citizenship education, internationalization, migration studies, and social justice issues related to newcomer students. She has extensive leadership and professional engagement in developing programs, policies, and strategies related to internationalization and international development through Global Affairs Canada, UNESCO, UNICEF, and Asia Development Bank.

Dr. Hakan Ergin

Hakan Ergin holds a doctoral degree from Boğaziçi University. As an international graduate student, he had studied at the State University of New York at Binghamton, U.S. and Wurzburg University, Germany. He recently worked at the Boston College Center for International Higher Education as a postdoctoral scholar under the supervision of Professor Hans de Wit. His academic interests include internationalization of higher education, digitalization of higher education, refugees and asylum seekers in higher education, the right to higher education, quality in higher education and brain drain. He currently teaches at Istanbul University, leads projects and provides consultation on inter/national higher education.

Dr. Melody Viczko

Dr. Melody Viczko is an Associate Professor who researches and teaches in the area of education policy at Western University. Her research focuses on how policies work to assemble different actors across education arenas. She currently leads an international research project examining the actors and issues of refugee access to higher education in Canada, France and England. She is also the lead of a SSHRC-funded project aimed at mapping the post-pandemic university. She is the President of the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada.  

Dr. Elizabeth Buckner

Elizabeth Buckner is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Elizabeth studies how global trends affect national higher education policies, institutional practices, and students’ lives – and ultimately, what this means for who attends university, where they do so, and what they learn. 

Elizabeth’s current research agenda focuses on two global trends: privatization and internationalization. She also has a long-standing interest and deep commitment to education in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, developed through years of study and travel in the region, and strengthened by personal connections, many cups of tea and a love of the Arabic language.    

Access to Higher Education for Refugees and Undocumented Students

Bajwa et al note that, “Attaining higher education plays a pivotal role in the integration and inclusion of refugees into Canadian society, as it can have “wide ramifications for individual refugees, the refugee community, and the general common good, and can result in expanded concrete skills, increased empowerment, increased confidence, and community building” (Bajwa et al, 2017, p.56-57).

With only 3% of refugees having access to higher education, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to remove barriers to access to education for this segment. These  low rates may be shocking, but they can be  attributed to the many challenges refugees face, including learning gaps due to interrupted schooling, issues with academic credentials, financial constraints, limited fluency in the language of instruction, information barriers, lack of knowledge or understanding of the higher education system in their host country, and the prohibitive cost of higher education.

In addition to all the above-mentioned challenges, undocumented students face further barriers to access higher education including procedural barriers (e.g., to disclose their status) and financial challenges (e.g., to pay international student fees without access to financial aid such as OSAP). In this panel, we will discuss the many challenges this segment faces to access Canadian higher education, and what can the government, policy makers and higher education institutions do to eliminate such barriers.


Dr. Rebecca Murray

Dr. Rebecca Murray is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sheffield, her teaching focuses on refugees and asylum seekers, migration and race. She is Project Manager for the Faculty of Social Sciences Migration Research Group and MIGREC (Migration, Integration and Governance Research Centre). Borders and bordering practices in post-compulsory education were the focus of Rebecca’s doctoral thesis: ‘Navigating the Higher Education Border: Routes to Belonging for Forced Migrant Students in the UK & Sweden’, a comparative study exploring the role of universities in mitigating and exacerbating the marginalisation experienced by forced migrant students in the UK and Sweden. Subsequent research ‘Forced Migrants in Higher Education: ‘Sanctuary Scholarships’ in a Hostile Environment’, has been published in the Journal of Ethnicity & Migration Studies and Migration & Society. Her current role and research profile was built upon 20-years’ experience as a practitioner, advocate and campaigner in the statutory and non-statutory sector. Rebecca founded and acted as Director of the Article 26 project, working in partnership with UK universities to create scholarships for forced migrant students. She is a qualified welfare rights officer and has expertise in child safeguarding having spent 10 years working with Save the Children.

Allison Williams

Allison joined Justice for Youth and Children in October 2019 to provide summary legal assistance and referrals to JFCY callers; and is now in the role of Litigation Lawyer. Allison originally hails from Northwestern Ontario and attended Osgoode Hall Law School after completing a BA from Queen’s University and a MA from the University of Toronto. While at Osgoode, Allison received an Ian Scott Public Interest Fellowship and spent a summer working for the Ground Council Treaty # 3 Women’s Council. Following law school, Allison articled at the Office of the Children’s Lawyer before being called to the bar in Ontario in 2016. Prior to joining JFCY, Allison spent several years working at a small firm practicing primarily immigration and refugee law, administrative law, and family law.

Elizabeth Barrera

Elizabeth Barrera (they/them) is a Nahua community organizer residing in Toronto. With a background in Indigenous studies and criminology, Elizabeth searches to unpack the criminal justice system through a critical lens. As part of the S4 Collective they wish to create more opportunities for knowledge dissemination regarding the current hegemonic structures that affect immigration policies, while creating a safe space for migrant youth to connect and focus on community care. You can find them at TIFF catching a new film.  

Dr. Tanya Aberman

Tanya Aberman is a community-based researcher, educator and organizer. She has worked on the issue of access to education for precarious status students for several years through grassroots projects, advocacy and within the university. She is the Coordinator of the access program for students with precarious status at York University and the Course Director for its bridging course. She is also part of the Sanctuary Students Solidarity & Support (S4) Collective. Tanya has a Phd in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies from York University.

A Higher Education Approach to Refugee Resettlement, Integration, and Education

There is no doubt that higher education institutions can play a role in refugee resettlement and integration.  In 2015, many Canadian higher education institutions supported Syrian refugees’ resettlement efforts. For example, The University of Toronto, York University and OCAD University joined the Ryerson-led Lifeline Syria challenge. The initiative successfully engaged more than 1000 volunteers, raised $5 million, and sponsored over 400 Syrian refugees. Most recently, in response to the Afghan refugee crisis, the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management along other community leaders founded the Lifeline Afghanistan; a non-partisan network of individuals and organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. In this panel, we will hear from leaders who were involved in such initiatives and learn about other global and local best practices and higher education approaches to refugee resettlement, integration, and education.


Rania Younes

Rania Younes is the National Project Manager for Immigrant Employment Councils of Canada at IEC-BC and has worked with other equity-seeking organizations such as TRIEC and the Canadian Arab Institute. In the last 10 years, social justice, inclusion and economic empowerment became a focus for Rania after being involved with various NGOs. 

Rania strongly believes that when immigrants proposer we all prosper, and with that belief rooted in her community work, she co-founded WelcomeHomeTO, a grassroots initiative that works closely with local community groups to articulate and bring attention to settlement challenges and opportunities, envisioning a dynamic settlement network where all newcomers are welcomed with open hearts and minds, and supported to reach their highest potential for a stronger Canada.  She also co-founded a networking and mentoring platform for professionals within the Canadian Arab community. The creation of PCAN was motivated by Rania’s personal commitment to helping others, especially women and youth, become the best version of themselves through peer mentoring and building a supportive environment in which they flourish. She has personally mentored many professionals getting started in their new homes and careers. 


Dr. Wendy Cukier

Dr. Wendy Cukier Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Diversity Institute Founder, Academic Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub and Research Lead of the Future Skills Centre

She co-authored the bestseller “Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Java to Jurassic Park” and is a leader in disruptive technologies and innovation, is former VP of Research and Innovation and has authored more than 200 articles on aspects of diversity, inclusion and innovation. 

Wendy was one of the Founders of Lifeline Syria, a citizen’s group created to promote private sponsorship of Syrian refugees and she led the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, a unique approach to mobilizing students, faculty, staff and partners in post secondary institutions to address a pressing social issue.  The group successfully mobilized 1000 volunteers and raised $5m to privately sponsor more than 400 Syrian refugees.

Most recently, Wendy has also co-founded Lifeline Afghanistan, a non-partisan network of individuals and organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Primarily, Lifeline Afghanistan is focused on engaging Canadians in supporting the private sponsorship and in developing innovative strategies to provide social and economic opportunities for Afghan refugees to Canada.

Dr. John Carlaw

John Carlaw is a postdoctoral Research Fellow under the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration and Integration program at X University, Toronto. John served as Project Lead of York University’s Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, a refugee sponsorship and education initiative at the Centre for Refugee Studies from 2015 to 2019.

Dr. Genevieve Ritchie

Dr Genevieve Ritchie is a lecturer in the Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity program at the University of Toronto. Her recent publications include a book chapter retheorizing emergent approaches within youth studies, as well as scholarly journal articles on issues of private sponsorship in Canada and youth consciousness of democracy and dictatorship. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Marxism and Migration.

Sarina Bhaiwala

Sarina Bhaiwala is a program officer for WUSC’s flagship Student Refugee Program (SRP). The SRP is the only program of its kind to combine resettlement with opportunities for higher education. The program supports over 150 refugee students per year through active partnerships with over 100 Canadian university, college, and CEGEP campuses. Crucial to the program’s success is its unique youth-to-youth sponsorship model which empowers students in Canada to play an active role in the sponsorship of refugee students. In her role, Sarina trains, monitors and supports these campus-based groups to offer day-to-day social and academic support to newly arrived students, in addition to raising awareness and advocating for refugee access to education on their campuses.

Leen Al Zaibak

Leen is a leader in supporting the success of Syrian refugees resettled in Canada and abroad, as both co-Founder and Director of Jusoor, an international NGO that helps Syrian youth continue their education through scholarships and mentorship. Leen currently serves on the board of Lifeline Syria, and The Samara Centre for Democracy.

Leen holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, Trinity College and a Master degree in International Relations from the University of Manchester.

Investing in Inclusion: Building Sanctuary and Welcoming Campuses for Refugee and Undocumented Students

The University of Leicester in the UK  defines a sanctuary university as “an institution that offers good practice in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into the university community and fostering a culture of welcome and inclusion for all. In practical terms that means welcoming asylum seekers and refugees onto university courses and providing incentives and routes for them to get involved.”

Around 24 universities in the UK are accredited as sanctuary universities. For example, the University of Bradford in the UK offers Sanctuary scholarships to enable people seeking asylum, or those already granted refugee status who cannot access student finance, to participate in higher education.

This panel will look into ways and approaches where Canadian higher education institutions can create pathways to education and grant access to refugees and undocumented students. How can we foster a welcoming campus culture for these refugees? How can we address and fight xenophobia, promote inclusion, and invest in building global citizens that care about global and humanitarian issues? How can we create spaces and platforms in and out of the classroom to promote dialogue and support refugee resettlement, integration and educational needs?

What is our definition of a sanctuary campus and why Canadian Universities aren’t opting to be sanctuary campuses?


Dr. Idil Atak

Dr. Idil Atak is an associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Criminology at Ryerson University. She is cross-appointed to Lincoln Alexander School of Law. Her research interests include: irregular migration, refugee protection, securitization of migration and human rights law.

Dr. Graham Hudson

Graham Hudson is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Academic at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law. He holds law degrees from Osgoode (PhD), Queens (LLM) and U of T (J.D.). He teaches in the areas of criminal law, immigration and refugee law, constitutional law, and legal theory. He currently holds a SSHRC grant focusing on sanctuary cities, federalism, and the policing of migrants. He is also conducting research on the genealogy of secret trials in the British Empire.

Hudson’s research is in the areas of jurisdiction, the local governance of migration, urban securitization, constitutional law, and legal pluralism. His current research is organized around a SSHRC-funded socio-legal study of the sanctuary city/access without fear movement in Canada. It aims to identify factors affecting the implementation of sanctuary policies, with special emphasis on community capacity building and the strengthening of municipal jurisdiction over privacy and data. Hudson is also conducting research on the use of secret evidence in Canadian courts, including security certificates, terrorism trials, and civil litigation.

Dr. Susan McGrath

Susan McGrath C.M. is Professor Emerita and Senior Scholar at the School of Social Work, York University where she served as Director of the Centre for Refugee Studies from 2004-2012. Her research areas include refugee studies, collective trauma, and community social work. She has been the principal applicant or co-applicant of social science research grants valued at over $7 million. She is a past president of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration and a founding member of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Professor McGrath was awarded the 2015 SSHRC Partnership Impact Award for forging innovative, interdisciplinary, equitable and cross-sector partnerships and in 2014 was invested into the Order of Canada in recognition of her outstanding achievement in research and policy on refugee rights.

Mounir Nasri

Mounir Nasri is a social entrepreneur and advisor in the field of community development. He built several social impact projects in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq prior to his arrival to Canada under the private sponsorship program for Syrian refugees. Mounir has been working in the newcomer inclusion and settlement space in Toronto for the past five years, where he led a number entrepreneurship, employment, and skills building programs for new Canadians, and he is currently working with Toronto’s Local Immigration Partnership where he leads and coordinates cross-sectoral innovative collaborations and programs to build and sustain welcoming and inclusive communities for new Canadians. He is the Co-Chapter Lead for Techfugees Toronto and he sits on the Programming Committee at The Toronto Ward Museum. Mounir is also one of the former Young Advisors for 6 Degrees, the global forum for inclusion and a project of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Mounir holds a Master of Management in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MMIE) from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, where he also earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with distinction in Global Development Studies after studying Computer Science at Haigazian University in Lebanon.

Mounir’s research paper on the impact of Canada’s welcoming culture and media coverage on the settlement outcomes of resettled Syrian refugees was recently published where he explored the relationship between media, community building, and refugee resettlement policies. He also recently completed a project with KPMG Canada as a part of his MMIE final project where he explored the role of innovation in social impact and diversity and inclusion strategies.

Community Partners

We want to sincerely thank and acknowledge two community partners for supporting our efforts in organizing this summit. 

  1. Welcome Home Toronto
    • WelcomeHomeTO is a group of professionals from various disciplines with the shared goal of supporting the best settlement experience for new Canadians, starting with resettled refugees in Toronto.
  2. S4 Collective
    • The Sanctuary Students Solidarity and Support Collective (S4) was formed in the fall of 2018 to address several challenges identified by precarious migrant and newcomer students (Sanctuary Students) at the threshold of post-secondary education in Ontario.

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