Arqus works on an action plan for Ukrainian refugees and students and scholars at risk in collaboration with NaUKMA
|20 Jun 2023
|20 Jun 2023
Today is World Refugee Day 2023, the international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. On this occasion, we would like to invite our Arqus communities to learn more about the action plan for Ukrainian refugees and scholars at risk that the “Inclusion and Diversity Hub” team of the Alliance is preparing in collaboration with the Arqus associate partner, the National University of Kyiv – Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA).
Widening access to and inclusion in higher education for under-represented groups is one of the Arqus major goals. The Alliance has always been very committed to enabling refugees and students at risk. Since the beginning of the initiative, a task force was set up with the aim of developing inclusive strategies to dismantle barriers in higher education and strengthen academic opportunities for refugee students and researchers.
This year the theme selected, , “hope away from home”, makes reference to the power of inclusion and solutions for refugees: “including refugees in the communities where they have found safety […] is the most effective way to enable them to contribute to the communities hosting them, and to prepare them to return home and rebuild their countries, when conditions allow them to do so safely, or to thrive if they are resettled to another country” (UNCHR.org). Within the actions of the Alliance devoted to fostering shared policies for inclusion, the Arqus Inclusion & Diversity Hub was entrusted with the development of the “Arqus Action Plan for Students and Scholars at Risk”.
As the current war against Ukraine is shaking Europe, drastically influencing the life and educational path of students and scholars as well, the first version of the document (due on 30th June 2023) will focus on the situation of students and scholars who had to flee Ukraine. A subsequent version will be drafted with a wider perspective on the community of students and scholars at risk at large across the Arqus Alliance.
The Action Plan will take the model of the “Integrated Plan for Refugees and Students at Risk”, developed during Arqus’ pilot phase by the “Enabling refugees” task force, as its starting point and will aim to provide practical solutions to the challenges faced by Ukrainian refugees and students and scholars at risk.
The term used, “students and scholars at risk”, is inspired by the Scholars at Risk Network and is one of the outcomes of the work carried out during Arqus I, the first Work Plan of the Alliance for the period 2019-2022. This term is used to refer to all students and scholars who are forced to flee their home countries for reasons connected to (perceived) threats to their well-being, safety, or (academic) freedom. Therefore, it serves as a framework to describe the circumstances for a broader range of addressees than “refugee” or “asylum seeker”, working as a needs-based, rather than a legal definition.
One very distinctive feature of the current and future work on the Action Plan is the integration of Arqus associate partner, the National University of Kyiv – Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA), in the working group. The collaboration with NaUKMA sheds a completely different light on the perspective with which we analyse the current situation, and also allows us to take actions that have Ukrainian students and scholars not “only” as their targets, but also as an active counterpart.
One of the initiatives that have been activated thanks to the initiative of NaUKMA and the collaboration of the Action Plan working group is a survey for Ukrainian students who have been studying abroad during the 2022-23 academic year. The survey is currently being disseminated to over 1,500 Ukrainian students. Its aim is to gather students’ experiences and recommendations on support structures offered by their host universities abroad, in order to incorporate their advice into the practices of the Arqus Alliance and of other institutions.
Starting from the respondents of the survey, we will encourage the engagement of Ukrainian and other students at risk in focus groups and in other activities, facilitating the creation of a network of students at risk within our Alliance. Scholars will be particularly supported through the Scholars at Risk network: besides having various active sections, one of Arqus partner institutions, Maynooth University, hosts Scholars at Risk Europe. The approach we will take in the planning and implementation of all activities is that of co-designing those together with students and scholars at risk themselves.
Other initiatives are taking place at different Arqus partner universities: for instance, the University of Wroclaw is implementing the “Arqus for Ukraine” project, funded by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA). Many of the Arqus institutions have included NaUKMA, and other Ukrainian higher education institutions, in their proposals to the Erasmus+ KA171 International Credit Mobility call, last February (results still pending). This will hopefully allow the universities belonging to Arqus to develop joint teaching opportunities with Ukrainian universities.
The article was written by Lucia Gennaro (Co-Lead of the “Arqus Inclusion & Diversity Hub” at the University of Padua) with the contribution of Chiara Enderle, Stefanie Kölling and Johanna Degering (Leipzig University), Fiona Clare Dalziel (University of Padua), and Sarah Zapusek (University of Graz).