21 August 2018

First international evaluation of refugee admission programs was a success

Utrecht Network Refugee Staff Week 2018

Incluusion students during the conference "The road to integration through higher education"
Incluusion students during the conference "The road to integration through higher education" (picture Thana Faroq, www.thanafaroq.com)

From 12-15 June 2018 Incluusion hosted the first edition of the Utrecht Network Refugee Staff Week in Utrecht. A total of 23 participants coming from 17 universities of The Utrecht Network and LERU universities gathered to discuss the state of their refugee admission programs.

Coming from all corners of Europe, these initiatives represent the huge diversity of refugee admission programs existing within the EU. The issues countries situated at the far borders of Europe face are different from countries located in the center of the EU, where the influx of refugees is regulated more.

How will higher education institutions respond to the challenge of helping refugees successfully integrate into society?

Participants got engaged with this question through lectures, workgroups and a field visit to the AZC at Plan Einstein in Utrecht. Evaluations showed that the participants were very positive about the overall content and organization of the Utrecht Network Refugee Staff Week.

Despite the great differences between programs and approaches, the participating universities listed three common challenges they experience within refugee admission programs:

  1. General lack of flexibility regarding admission and qualifications programs;
  2. Limited access to information about university programs;
  3. Limited access to the job market and network building.

During the last afternoon of the Staff Week, refugee students from the Incluusion program literally took the stage during the Incluusion conference “The road to integration through higher education”. They talked about their expectations, experiences and struggles as students at Utrecht University. The students also reflected on the importance of education and its role in improving their prospects for successful integration in Dutch society.

The 2018 edition of the Refugee Staff Week was a great success and marked the first step in assessing each other’s policies and programs. All participants expressed the desire to organize a follow up meeting in 2019 to track the integration of refugees into higher education progresses. The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, holding a leading position in refugee welcome programs in Greece, has expressed the preliminary intention to organize the second edition of the Refugee Staff Week.