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Meet a Solver: Hila Azadzoy, Kiron Open Higher Education

Kiron Open Higher Education is a social start-up which gives displaced people access to higher education worldwide, regardless of whether they are missing any papers, or whether they have not yet received their refugee status.

Kiron applied to our Refugee Education challenge and became one of our Solver teams after pitching at Hubweek in the fall of 2016. This week, we are profiling Kiron and Hila Azadzoy, their Co-founder and Head of Academics.

Do you think you’re ready to join Kiron and become one of our Solver teams? We just launched four new challenges. Make sure you apply by August 1 for a chance to join our next class:


Q:  Tell us your story: How did you first become interested in the work you do?

Vincent Zimmer and Markus Kressler came up with the idea for Kiron during a refugee conference in the summer of 2014, where they discussed their visions of a “University 2.0.” Their idea aims to use technological progress to concentrate more on each student. At the time, Zimmer and Kressler both worked as volunteers with refugees: Markus with a psycho-social consultancy for refugees, and Vincent with “Study without Borders,” which supports students in crisis situations. Both were enthusiastic about the possibilities that this new approach to university education offered refugees, who previously did not have direct access to education. Moved by the overwhelming number of refugees reaching Europe in the summer of 2015, and having been born to a family of refugees myself, I joined forces with Markus and Vincent to co-found and implement a technological solution to the global refugee crisis.

Q: Tell us about your background—professionally, personally, or as a team.

As Head of Academics for Kiron, my role has been crucial in developing Kiron’s innovative academic model, which offers tailor-made coherent curricula by clustering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from renowned educational platforms-such as Coursera and edX -so that refugees can start studying regardless of their asylum status. Moreover, I am responsible for establishing strong partnerships with accredited universities worldwide and leading MOOC providers, which provide Kiron students with the opportunity to finish their studies offline with the goal of earning a regular bachelor’s degree. I am driven by my father’s personal experience, who migrated in the 70’s to Germany and was also facing the same challenges like refugees nowadays in accessing higher education. In contrast to the 70’s, where digital solutions to this issue would not have been possible, I am keen to implement a sustainable, digital solution at scale, which addresses the challenges refugees have been facing for decades and to reduce the inequalities in access to higher education.


Q: What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

Refugees and forcibly displaced persons face exceptional obstacles when accessing higher education in their host or home countries. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), less than 1% of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people globally have access to higher education. UNHCR identified the following major barriers preventing these vulnerable groups from accessing the higher education: legal, language, college capacity, and financial.

Q: How are you trying to solve it?

Through an innovative model of blended learning, Kiron offers tailor-made modularized curricula clustering MOOCs from renowned educational platforms such as Coursera and edX so that refugees can start studying regardless of their asylum status. The courses offered through Kiron are entirely free of charge and accessible via our learning platform “Kiron Campus.” Through strong partnerships with accredited universities worldwide, students have the opportunity to finish their studies offline with the goal of earning a regular bachelor’s degree.

Q: Tell us a story! Who will your solution impact?

Adnan (male, 20, Syrian) arrived in Germany in 2015 with hopes of continuing his studies, but due to his lack of legal paperwork and German language skills, he was unable to enroll at a German university. Through Kiron, Adnan was able to use his temporary ID to register, and he began his courses in mechanical engineering within a few days. In addition to his coursework, Adnan is working on his German and meeting with his buddy and mentor to help him achieve his academic and career goals. When he isn’t able to find a quiet space to study, Adnan works from Kiron’s study center in Berlin, where he can access a computer and the internet for free. By enrolling at Kiron, Adnan’s identity and narrative changed from that of a refugee to a student, restoring hope and opportunity to his life.


Q: What do you think the Solve community can uniquely bring to solving your challenge?

Kiron is always looking for new partnerships and collaborations to maximize its impact. The Solve community is the ideal marketplace to meet innovative partners across different sectors with the aim of coming together to make higher education more accessible and open for refugees jointly.

Q: What’s the challenge that you think Solve should take on next?

Gender equality and its impact on reducing global poverty

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