Newly Arrived


Higher Education Alliance For Refugees (HEAR)

HEAR was recruited to Barcelona via the BCN Action Plan and is being supported by BIPP HUB as an incubation project.

HEAR arrived in Barcelona in January 2017. HEAR is a new organisation dedicated to policy research to promote education for those forced to flee their homes by war, climate change and natural disasters. HEAR aims to harness expertise in universities around the world to create innovative approaches to education.

Among the first three projects HEAR working on are:


Portable Qualifications

Refugees often flee without documents that prove past educational attainment. Block chain technology and peer-to-peer certification offer some technological prospects to resolve the issue but the wider legal, political and educational environments need to be considered if any system is to be successful.


Vocational Education

Many refugees face limited prospects of returning home any time soon. Many well-qualified Syrians have worked in the Gulf States, and there are opportunities for other forms of employment if training can be established.


The Future of Syrian Education

Syria’s universities are still functioning in government-controlled areas but many academics and students have fled the country or been internal displaced. There is a need to start considering what role education will play in the reconstruction of Syria and what needs to be done to create a successful university system after conflict.

Why Barcelona?

Barcelona is in so many ways an obvious destination for an international non-profit organization. It is possible to attract great staff not only from the large, multi-lingual local talent pool but internationally because people want to live here. Costs are low, the environment predictable and the city has an open and international atmosphere. An uncrowded airport less than half an hour from the city center with direct global connections makes it perfect for travel. Few European cities have the same mix of cost, convenience and amazing quality of life, something that is increasingly important when you are recruiting.

For the Higher Education Alliance for Refugees, there were additional reasons. Barcelona has been welcoming to refugees. Tens of thousands of people came out on to the streets to call on the Spanish government to admit more refugees. People here feel a personal connection given their own history. There is a sense of compassion out there. It is a diverse and open environment with few of the tensions we are seeing emerging elsewhere in Europe. That open and international outlook was particularly important to us. Barcelona is also an increasingly important international education hub with some of the best universities and research centers in Europe.

The BCN Action Plan was hugely important in the decision to establish in Barcelona. It opened the door to the city and provincial governments and helped provide all the information we needed. Having an immediate set of links to businesses, universities and different levels of government was very useful and knowing that there was this alliance supporting you very encouraging. This sort of private and public sector engagement with social organizations is very innovative and encouraging and it reflect the dynamism you find in Barcelona.

International non-profits and think tanks rely on connections and there are few places where it is easier to make connections than in Barcelona. The city is international, outward looking, cosmopolitan and superb at breaking down barriers. There are few places where government, business and the social sectors work together more effectively and you can see that in the superb management of the city. Few cities work as well as Barcelona. No other city has the combination of efficiency, low costs and amazing quality of life.

Robert Templer

Professor of Practice

The Shattuck Center

The Higher Education Alliance for Refugees