Academic refugees: lives on hold

Photo: pixabay

The initiative Refugees and Higher Education started with the broadcast of the web seminar “What can scholars do about the refugee crisis?”, organized by the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) in collaboration with EuroScientist. The invited speakers to the web seminar were representatives of different organisations and entities, such as the Humboldt Foundation, the Institute of International Education, the organisation Scholars at Risk and Kiron Open Higher Education.

The scope of the seminar was to raise attention to a current phenomenon, which is the displacement of students and academics from their home countries due to political instabilities and conflicts of war.

Photo: pixabay

In fact, many European countries have received a large number of people seeking asylum and refugee status since 2015. Since that time, the European Union has conducted different actions in response to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean and in order to provide humanitarian aid.

Access to basic and higher education, however, are among the numerous challenges refugees face as it is often the case that refugees interrupt their studies when they leave their native countries.

As a follow-up of the web seminar, MCAA have decided to give more attention to this topic and to apply for participation in the Euroscience Open Forum 2018 (ESOF 2018) with a proposal that has Refugees and Higher Education as its theme. MCAA proposed a panel to discuss the best practices to integrate displaced students and academics into higher education institutions in receiving countries. The panel is also aimed at highlighting initiatives which allow various paths for accessing higher education and to encourage the sharing of scientific knowledge.

Today, there are already several initiatives promoting access to higher education in Europe for refugees. Such examples include Kiron Open Higher Education in Germany, the global platform for Syrian students in Portugal, Article 26 — Helena Kennedy Foundation and other initiatives that provide academic institutions with the means to host refugee students, such as the Philipp Schwartz Initiative in Germany and the non-governmental organization CARA, which is a lifeline to academics at risk in the United Kingdom.

Together with existing initiatives, the MCAA hopes to raise awareness about the various practices at higher education institutions in Europe. Therefore MCAA will carry out a survey among MCAA members to identify, among others, best practices that can quickly be shared and scaled up.

All these initiatives are meant to integrate refugees into society through education. Education lays the foundation for countries to build and cultivate values such as equality, tolerance, understanding, compassion for one another and democracy. The world surely could use more of it these days.

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This post was written by Andreina Laera

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