In 2010, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., then Superior General of the Jesuits, posed the following provocative questions in Mexico City to delegates from over 200 Jesuit institutions of higher learning from around the world:
“Can we not go beyond the loose family relationships we now have as institutions, and re-imagine and re-organise ourselves so that, in this globalised world, we can more effectively realise the universality which has always been part of Ignatius’ vision of the Society? If each university, working by itself as a proyecto social [social project], is able to accomplish so much good in society, how much more can we increase the scope of our service to the world if all the Jesuit institutions of higher education become, as it were, a single global proyecto social?”
Fr. Nicolas challenged Jesuit institutions to go beyond mere networking and explore deeper ways to collaborate, including sharing of knowledge, faculty, and libraries. It was at this conference that an agreement was signed between Regis University, Jesuit Commons and Jesuit Refugee Service to deliver higher education to forcibly displaced persons. From this emerged Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, now Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL). From its inception, JWL was conceived as a Jesuit educational vehicle to capitalise on its vocation to universality.
During an initial three-year pilot period, JWL pioneered the offering of an online Diploma in Liberal Studies to refugees and host community members in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya, and in Amman, Jordan. For a time, JWL also provided a range of classroom-based professional certificate programmes in Syria, Afghanistan, Thailand and Chad.
Today, through JWL and its partners, our students have access to a greater range of programmes, forming a learning path that includes a Global English Language programme (a stepping stone to other courses), 3 new, blended e-learning professional certificates, the Diploma in Liberal Studies, and two degrees.
The programmes are certified and relevant to our students' contexts, aiming to reduce inequalities, foster critical-thinking, dialogue and peace, empowering them with the knoewledge and skills required to serve (and lift) their communities.
Since 2010, JWL's presence has expanded to 14 countries and over 30 community learning centres worldwide. We have served over 5,000 forcibly displaced and other marginalised persons, 50 per cent of whom are women.
JWL believes that tertiary learning and the formation of a global community of learners addresses the root causes of poverty, isolation, despair, conflict and displacement in order to build a more peaceful and humane world. JWL knows education fosters hope.
Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Higher Education at the Margins (JWL) is a collaborative global partnership comprised of organisations, institutions, companies and, above all, people, to provide tertiary education to those who would otherwise not have access to higher learning opportunities. It draws on the rich and centuries-long Jesuit tradition of higher education and through a blended on-site and online approach mobilises the resources of Jesuit and other worldwide networks of educational institutions.
JWL seeks to foster a global community of learners committed to its motto - Learning Together to Transform the World. Our cornerstones focus on four key concepts: global thinking, strategic partnerships, Ignatian experience and 'best' for the 'least' at moderate costs.
The countries with a low human development index (UNDP), which is below 0.7 out of 1 are shown in the map presented. The people in these countries are not just suffering from low per-capita income, from low life expectancy and a low average number of years in school. Many of them suffer from great political volatility, repression and conflict.
WL's strategy is to make higher education accessible to those who are losing out on it and who have a deep interest and motivation to bring about change, to transform the world into a more peaceful and humane space.