Kiron University Offers Online Higher Education to Refugees


A new online university will be offering free, internationally-recognized education to refugees that comes at no cost and without asking for paperwork that refugees may not have.

It’s named Kiron University, after the Chiron of Greek myth, and was founded last year by German students including partnerships with universities like Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and 20 other schools both in Germany and elsewhere.

One of the founders, Odai Al Hashmi, fled to Germany from Syria via Turkey in 2013. He said:

A lack of resources, legal documents and language skills all combine to make it very hard for refugees to get back into education.

The program lasts three years. In the first, students can brush up on their language skills, take preparation courses, or start on their degree track. In year two, students can choose between five programs: business, engineering, architecture, computer science, and intercultural studies. For the third year, students transfer to a partner university where they can finish their studies on campus. Not until their third year do students have to produce their refugee paperwork.

The courses are available only in English, but in the future Kiron hopes to also offer classes in Arabic and French.

Mark Kressler, another co-founder, said:

To enroll in a university in Germany, you need to show specific school certificates and to speak German perfectly just to hand in your application. That means that people are condemned to live in uncertainty for one, two or even more years, and their talent is on stand-by.

According to Astrid Zweynert of Reuters, the only document that potential students need is one that confirms their refugee status or a certificate that shows that they have begun applying for it.

Germany is expecting 80.000 refugees this year and views integrating them into the workforce as a central goal. The government has encouraged German universities to accept refugees, but Kiron is the first plan that has been put into action.

15,000 students, mostly refugees from Syria, have already applied, writes Polina Garaev of i24 News.

Younes Ouaqasse, Kiron’s chief of operations, said:

The refugees are extremely motivated to study and to seize opportunities. Those who find asylum here in Germany know they have no other country. They are unlikely to return to their homeland soon, so they must integrate in their new home. They know that their only choice is to get an education, and we are giving them the opportunity to do so.

Its funding comes not from the government, but from internet fundraising. They are seeking 1.2 million Euros to support 1,000 students, and have already raised 146,000 Euros in less than a month. The number of students they will be able to accept depends on how successful their fundraising is. To donate to the cause, visit their Startnext page via their website.