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PADILEIA: Facilitating access to higher education in Jordan and Lebanon

Since 2011, more than 13 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes and seek sanctuary within their country’s borders or as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and beyond. These neighbouring host countries are under significant financial pressure, which has been worsened by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to living below the poverty line, the majority of Syrian refugees and disadvantaged local young people in Jordan and Lebanon face significant barriers to accessing higher education opportunities.

Education is vital in aiding the recovery and empowerment of these young people and ensuring that they have the tools they need to achieve their full potential. To facilitate access to higher education in Jordan and Lebanon, King’s has worked with regional universities, NGOs and online education providers over the past five years through the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA).

PADILEIA was formed to meet the educational needs of refugees affected by the Syrian war and disadvantaged local youth in Jordan and Lebanon. Running from 2016 to 2022, this innovative partnership consists of King’s (led by Dr Tania Lima, Director of Global Engagement), Al Al-Bayt University in Jordan, and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, as well as Kiron Open Higher Education (a digital-education NGO) and FutureLearn (a leader in online learning).

To meet the diverse needs of the students, their individual interests and immediate goals, the PADILEIA project team developed a three-pronged approach, which included eight bespoke online courses, a blended foundation programme, and self-paced study tracks with locally recognised course modules.

PADILEIA was set up to be an innovative programme that brought together universities, NGOs and the private sector, with local partners playing a key role in co-designing the programme and its delivery. In addition to pedagogical innovation on student-led content development and curriculum, PADILEIA also led to the creation of bespoke and sustainable spaces for blended delivery and student services that provided a holistic support model. I am extremely proud to have been part of this transformational programme that impacted so many lives, not only in Lebanon and Jordan but also in the UK and globally.– Dr Tania Lima, Director of Global Engagement & PADILEIA Lead at King’s College London

The eight online bespoke PADILEIA courses were designed by King’s Online and King’s Faculties. These courses include English Elementary, English Intermediate, English for Healthcare, Introduction to Nursing, Business, Entrepreneurship, Digital Skills and Engineering. Over 13,000 self-identifying refugees and disadvantaged young people have participated in one of these courses.

King’s Online played a pivotal role in the design and development of the PADILEIA courses. To ensure learner-centred design was always the number one priority, King’s Online engaged with facilitators, students in the region and King’s academics to deliver content suited to the students’ current knowledge and interests.

The course subjects were chosen based on needs assessment and knowledge from partners on the gap between school-leavers and university entry requirements. The courses underwent rigorous quality assurance through FutureLearn and academic teams, and were developed to be mobile friendly and optimised for low bandwidth so that the learners could easily access them from anywhere and continue their studies.

The course curriculum is targeted towards an objective which is helping students, whose education was disrupted, to reach higher education. When I joined this community, my life changed. My life and the lives of many of my friends here.– Mohamed Alkeddeh, PADILEIA Foundation Course and AUB student and scholarship recipient

To aid students’ learning and help them prepare for university, study hubs were set up in Jordan and Lebanon where students had access to facilitators, computers and internet, as well as wrap-around support and a sense of community. The study hubs were inspired by refugees’ shelter-building practices and were designed to be portable, scalable, cost-effective, ecologically responsive and structurally secure.

King’s contributed to the blended curriculum that the American University of Beirut (AUB) created for delivery in these study hubs. This strand of the project was the most impactful in realising the ambition of increased access to higher education for Syrian refugees and disadvantaged young people in Jordan and Lebanon. Over 1,000 students participated in these blended programmes, with 510 students following  PADILEIA’s innovative Foundation Programme and 102 graduates going on to continue their education and enrol at university.

The Principles of Engineering course was co-developed by King’s Online in collaboration with Professor Claire Lucas and Professor Mischa Dohler from the Department of Engineering. As part of the course, Claire and Mischa delivered virtual live-teaching teaching to 14 students, providing four hours of further teaching to the cohort based in Lebanon. This was a first for the PADILEIA project and was highly successful. Course facilitator Phillipe commented that ‘the collaboration with King’s professors Mischa and Claire helped students to gain knowledge and to see how topics were real and applicable. This kept them excited to learn more about new technologies and to think about the upcoming new technologies.’

Professor Claire Lucas, Professor of Engineering Teaching and Learning, reflected on the mutual benefits of supporting the PADILEIA project: ‘Creating the course with Mischa and the team was a fantastic experience and getting to deliver some live sessions with students in Lebanon and hear their project ideas was truly inspiring.’

A high-impact initiative that provided additional support was the development of mentoring by Syrian professionals in the UK, as well as academic support networks and buddying schemes. Through a peer-to-peer scheme developed by the PADILEIA team at King’s and the Modern Language Centre, PADILEIA students interacted with King’s students to study together, learn languages, and participate in cultural exchanges.

As well as providing facilitated learning for students in Jordan and Lebanon, the online PADILEIA courses can be accessed worldwide, allowing them to reach significantly more beneficiaries. In recognition of their wider appeal and benefits, some of the courses have been included in the Department for Education’s Skills Toolkit and the Grow stronger with Google initiative. To date, more than 1.1 million learners from across the world have enrolled in one of the PADILEIA courses.

Find out more

The Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA) was an initiative under the Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR), that was funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the UK.

In this story

Tania Lima

Tania Lima

Director of Global Engagement

Claire Lucas

Claire Lucas

Professor of Engineering Teaching and Learning

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