The World Refugee Day is marked by challenges to gain access to higher education
|21 Jun 2021
Only 3% of refugee youth participate in tertiary education, although the number of unreported cases is suspected to be higher (see: UNHCR report “Coming Together for Refugee Education. Education Report 2020”). It is not only this precarious number that reminds us that access to higher education is still marked by unequal possibilities and hurdles that are too difficult to overcome. Even people with years of work experience in their home countries, for example as doctors, teachers or lawyers, face battles to have their professional degrees recognized throughout Europe and are often forced to work below their educational level. Others who have fled their countries need to deal with the recognition of their previous educational attainments. It becomes especially difficult if the documentary evidence of their qualifications has been lost as a result of their flight from their home countries. So, interruptions in the educational biography, missing documents, psychological problems and trauma, language barriers and bureaucratical challenges as well as the double pressure of wanting to build a future while lacking a secure residence status are only a few obstacles people with a refugee background face when applying to university.
Following the UN Sustainable Development Goals principle of “Leaving no one behind”, it is the Arqus Alliance’s aim to “enable refugees” – as the Task Force is named – by developing inclusive strategies to increase the number of asylum seekers and refugees able to continue their studies or academic careers across Europe and thus make refugee students more visible in the higher education sector.
Over the last couple of months, the Enabling Refugees Task Force has been organizing the first of two online workshops, which will take place on 1st July 2021 and will focus on the exchange of best practice experiences from Leipzig University and Lyon, l’Université Jean Moulin, and the challenges the institutions have faced. The Task Force will be joined by a representative of UNHCR, who will present the Italy-based project “The Manifesto on an Inclusive University”: so far 50 Italian universities have committed themselves to the Manifesto, thus declaring their commitment to its general principles: equality and non-discrimination, hospitality, knowledge, integration, appreciation of diversity and participation. The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees will also be presented during the workshop by the Norwegian organization NOKUT.
The workshop aims to inspire dialogue and will be the first step to developing new ideas and strategies in order to dismantle barriers in tertiary education and to create a flexible model which could also be adopted by other institutions outside the Alliance: “widening access and inclusion” is in fact part the network’s Mission statement. So, in view of their commitment to internationalization, inclusion and diversity, including refugees in their overarching strategy is a vital aspect of all universities’ social responsibility, and thereby a way of contributing to the creation of a strong and welcoming society.
Stefanie Kölling (Leipzig University) and Fiona Clare Dalziel (University of Padua).
More information soon.