The Vulnerable Graduates? Exploring the Post-bachelor’s Degree Un/employment Experiences of Somali and Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia


  • Alebachew Kemissso Center for Comparative Education and Policy Studies, College of Education and Behavioral Studies, Addis Ababa University


refugees, vulnerability, higher education, scholarship, Ethiopia


The overall objective of this study was to explore the post-bachelor's degree un/employment experiences of refugees who participated in higher education using scholarships in Ethiopia. The study followed a qualitative research approach. Participants of this study were Eritrean and Somali refugee graduates, and staff from the Refugee and Returnee Service, and the Ministry of Education of Ethiopia. Policy and legal documents, and government directives pertinent to refugee education were also used as sources of data. Data were collected through interviews and review of documents. The findings indicated that higher education scholarships were beneficial for the individual refugees in terms of developing a critical consciousness about what they aspired to attain in the future and provided a slim option to pursue a legal pathway to move out from Ethiopia. For the refugee community, graduates from public universities served as a pool of human capital who could volunteer as an organized group to work against social and economic problems in the camps. However, refugees' post-bachelor's degree experiences revealed that higher education opportunities could exacerbate vulnerability if experiences after graduation did not lead to employment. The study implied that refugees who were graduates of higher education and outside the predefined categories as vulnerable by UNHCR could be susceptible to harm and marginalisation due to their status. Hence, policymakers and researchers need to understand the meaning and manifestation of vulnerability from the specific experiences of the refugees who live in varying contexts.