World University Service of Canada (WUSC)

Marc Caron, SVR Steering Committee Member Interview with:

Michelle Manks (Senior Manager - Durable Solutions for Refugees) 

World University Service of Canada (WUSC)

& Nour Mousa WUSC Local Committee at Huron University College

March 4, 2021

World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is an International Development Organization that works in education, economic opportunities, and empowerment for young people. It began as a network of students who wanted to provide an opportunity for displaced students to continue their education after the First and Second World Wars. In Canada, the first chapter was started in the 1940s. WUSC chapters grew across different campuses as a network of student advocates urged their universities to support the sponsorship of refugees. WUSC programs include the Student Refugee Program.

Michelle Manks describes the Student Refugee Program as “a youth led peer-to-peer refugee sponsorship program that operates under Canada's immigration infrastructure which allows us to sponsor refugees as not-for-profit organizations. So it gives us the ability to identify students overseas who are in need of a durable solution and opportunities to continue their education.” The scholarship is for one year, and virtually all Candian universities participate in the scholarship program. Financial support for the program comes from the university and student levies (student fees). The Student Refugee Program is organized by a network of Local Committees (at the university) made up of students responsible for: negotiating levies and financial contributions of the university, ensuring that financial support is in place, raising funds as needed, supporting the social, academic, and financial integration of the students from refugee backgrounds that come to Canada as permanent residents, raising awareness (on campus and among the public) about access to educational opportunities for students from refugee backgrounds, and working toward the destigmatizing of refugee statuses.

WUSC currently offers opportunities to students from refugee backgrounds coming from Lebanon and Jordan in the Middle East and Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda in sub-Saharan Africa. Each year the Student Refugee Program sponsors between 135 and 150 students and has sponsored 2400 students since 1978. To qualify, students must meet minimum standards to study in French or English, pass a test required for admission, have no dependents, and meet a minimum academic qualification depending on the country of origin.

Students from refugee backgrounds are given permanent resident status on arrival through the Canadian immigration system. This durable status grants them the right to stay in Canada after graduation with the same funding and employment opportunities as Canadian citizens. Additionally, permanent resident status allows them to apply for citizenship after a period of time. In explaining the resettlement portion of the program Michelle Manks states, “As I mentioned before, we have a system in Canada that allows us to be the official sponsor of the students who have refugee status or meet the Convention definition of a refugee. So we would submit an application alongside our campus representatives at each campus to the Canadian government to resettle the individuals that have been the successful applicants to the program. Then Canadian immigration will make a final decision on their eligibility for immigration to Canada and confirm that they are indeed persons in need of Canada's protection. We'll do all of the screening that's normally involved in a resettlement process.”

World University Service of Canada is a robust peer supported system that offers students from refugee backgrounds a fully supported opportunity to continue their education at a Canadian university. While explaining what recommendations are critical to the success of the student, Nour Mousa, a scholarship recipient herself, explains, “When you reach the point you’re able to bring students it's important to make them aware of the whole situation, what they can get, what kind of support that they can get and what they need to find it for themselves because many students struggle with this after they arrive.” Other recommendations made by Michelle and Nour for building a successful scholarship program include providing support services on campus and in the community, striving to cover the full cost of tuition/expenses for four years, creating strong collaboration between students and the university, building a peer-to-peer support and mentorship network to help students from refugee backgrounds integrate into campus and society, leveraging campus services like mental health services and international student support services, and making campus a welcoming environment by raising awareness to change the mindset about students from refugee backgrounds.

Meet SVR Volunteer, Marc Caron

Marc Caron, SVR Steering Committee Member. 

Marc Caron is a Master’s candidate in the Peace and Conflict Studies department at UNC-Greensboro. His passion lies in creating equal opportunities for all individuals allowing communities to reach their full potential. This has led to a research focus on building cultures of peace that value alternatives to violence through peace education initiatives. Marc currently serves as Executive Director of C.O.N.F.L.I.C.T. Alliance, a student group within the Peace and Conflict Studies Department and is a member of the executive board of the Global Journal of Peace Research and Praxis (UNCG).