World Refugee Day: MBA programme helps to build brighter futures

Some of the graduates from the Lebanese Refugee Scholarship programme, delivered by Theirworld and the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University (Theirworld/Adrian Hartrick)

See how a Theirworld-supported programme allows refugees and vulnerable Lebanese citizens to continue their studies and contribute to their communities.

Wisam Ahmad Alghati remembers exactly where he was when the news came through that would change his life.

The Syrian refugee living in Lebanon had applied for a scholarship to take a Master of Business Administration degree, delivered by the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University and Theirworld.

“When the email arrived, I was showering,” said Wisam. “Someone told me I was accepted. I was very happy and excited.

“The MBA makes you a better version of yourself. Every day you wake up and you are no longer able to accept staying the person you were yesterday.”

Wisam was one of 20 students selected in 2020 for the Lebanese Refugee Scholarship programme – open to Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and vulnerable Lebanese citizens. The programme gives them the chance to continue their studies and build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

To mark World Refugee Day today, Theirworld talked to some of those who graduated with a prestigious MBA last year. Nahed Khalil Mansour, a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, said: “If you have the determination, then you are able to complete your dreams.”

Learn more about Nahed’s story in our new video.

The fully-funded scholarships programme was so successful that Theirworld and Edinburgh Business School teamed up again last year to give another 20 people in Lebanon the opportunity to study for an MBA.

One in seven people living in Lebanon is a refugee. Across the world, there are 35.3 million refugees and about half of them are under the age of 18, according to latest statistics from the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The total number of displaced people – including asylum-seekers and those displaced inside their own countries – is 108.4 million.

The trauma of being displaced and the battle to survive means young people affected by conflict are often forced to abandon their education.

Dream small dreams that get a little bigger each day and you never know where you could end up.

MBA graduate Wisam Ahmad Alghati

Before the conflict began in Syria, Wisam had been studying mechanical engineering at Aleppo University. He left the country in 2013 and ended up in a refugee camp in neighbouring Lebanon.

He said: “Conditions were very difficult and we decided that there would be no more studying during this time. My personality had changed a lot. The person who had studied mechanical engineering was gone. I started to feel that I should go more into administration.”

But now that he has an MBA, many new exciting opportunities are open to him.

Wisam added: “I want to advise anyone thinking of doing an MBA to not turn down the opportunity. The Wisam who came to a refugee camp in 2013 could never dream he would have an MBA from Edinburgh.”

Only 6%

Of refugees worldwide are enrolled in higher education

Another 2022 graduate from the MBA scholarship programme is Baraa Mhamassani. She said: “I learned a lot of things on this journey. How to depend on myself more in my studies.

“How to think and to better analyse information. How to be more supportive to the people that were studying with me.

“I would like to spread the impact of the things I have learned to the people and the women that are around me in my community and give them support and strength.”