4 January 2018

How are the winners of the Societal Impact Award doing?

Refugees more often full Master's students thanks to Incluusion

Student met aziatisch uiterlijk in een Nederlandse collegezaal

Soon, it will be made public which employee and which student win the Societal Impact Award 2017. How are last year's winners doing? With pride, the employees of Incluusion see “their” refugee students enrol in Master’s programmes. And the winning student initiative Taste before you Waste is going like a train too.

Fahed from Syria, the very first participant of Incluusion, is busy with the Master's programme Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage in Amsterdam. This never would have happened without Incluusion, project leader Elena Valbusa fully believes. “He raised his English level from A2 to C1 and studied the subjects Museum Studies and Chemistry at the University College, which means he can now work on oil paintings.”

InclUUsion studente uit Afrika praat met Nederandse collega
Photo by: Myra Wippler

Typically Dutch study skills

There are more successful examples. Two young women from Syria are currently enrolled in Master’s programmes in Utrecht: Conflict Studies and Public International Law. Two other newcomers are studying Corporate Finance and Pedagogy. Without their experiences from Incluusion, they never would have been admitted there, Valbusa states. “They do possess the knowledge, but they sometimes have trouble with the study skills that are required in Dutch scientific education. In their homeland, they often enrolled in group academic education with oral exams. Here, they learn to write better in English, write on an academic level and improve their analytical skills. They learn to cooperate in working groups with other students. Incluusion helps them to pass subjects more easily. “Without the pressure of time and money, you can study better,” Valbusa states.

Without the pressure of time and money, you can study better.

The applications for Incluusion show what is happening in the world. Last year brought in students from Turkey, now the first application from Venezuela has been received. According to Elena Valbusa, the division is roughly like this: forty percent from Syria, forty percent from African countries and the rest from other hotbeds in the world. Incluusion can also often ensure that refugees from other parts of the Netherlands can receive a place to live in Utrecht through the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers. This way, they do not have to commute to enrol in education.

Twee Afrikaanse InclUUsion studenten praten met Nederlandse collega's
Photo by: Myra Wippler

The lecturer decides

Thanks to the winning of the Societal Impact Award, Valbusa has been able to present the findings of Incluusion on a conference in Sevilla of the European Association for International Education, together with colleagues of the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Oslo. Germany and Norway are ahead of the curve when it comes to making higher education accessible to refugees. “In Norway, it is way easier for “the undocumented” to study than elsewhere,” Valbusa states. “They have some sort of temporary passport for student refugees (created by NOKUT), that is recognised by a large number of universities.” She is also proud of the Incluusion approach, in which potential students are allowed into subjects purely on skills and knowledge. The lecturer decides whether or not it's possible, not the paper mill.

Winner category "student": free meals

The other winner of the Societal Impact Award 2016 was Law student Francesca Ali, who was one of the founders in Utrecht of Taste before you Waste. Volunteers pick up food that can no longer be sold at stores and ensure that meals are made of it. Sometimes they cook personally, like at the Weggeefwinkel at the Amsterdamse Straatweg in Utrecht. In other places, they are more of a supplier. The requirement for “customers” is that you can easily join the meal and that it is free.

Een groep deelnemers aan Taste before you waste

Since the summer, the Weggeefwinkel also has a weekly “community dinner”, which draws in all kinds of people from the neighbourhood, including elderly people and children. In the past year, Taste before you waste has also started to provide vegetables and fruit to the Tussenvoorziening, a refugee centre at the Weerdsingel in Utrecht. “The moment we ring the doorbell, the staff happily takes all our food on the spot. They cook delicious meals there, for entire families. The delicious scents are blown your way and that in turn gives us new energy,” Francesca Ali says. There probably will be another new collaboration initiative for a group meal this year, in an Utrecht-based café operated by volunteers.

Een vrijwilliger van Taste before you waste met groenten op tafel
A volunteer of Taste before you Waste in Utrecht

Taste before you Waste has grown a lot, thanks in part to the Societal Impact Award. Ali primarily financed practical matters with the award money. The kitchen in the Weggeefwinkel had to be renewed, in terms of the furnace as well as pots, pans and bulk ingredients such as oil. Two carrier tricycles/bicycles have been refurbished. There was much interest in Taste before you Waste, from a tv show as well as researchers of Erasmus University Rotterdam. By now, two interns are working on the project as well, in marketing, among other things. In 2018, the project continues and Francesca Ali continues to be involved.

This is where you can meet Incluusion students in 2018:

7 April 2018: A Struggle for Peace, a conference of the Utrecht-based Student Society for International Relations, where Incluusion students will speak.
8 - 11 March 2018: The Utrecht University Model United Nations, where InclUUsion students join lobbying campaigns and debates.


Would you like to know more about Incluusion?
Project Co-ordinator
University Corporate Offices - Human Resources - Leadership & Management Development
Law, Economics and Governance
Heidelberglaan 8
3584CS Utrecht