Leading Organization: UB, University of Barcelona
The Living Lab is a place for staff members from different universities in Europe exchange experiences, design, explore, experience, refine and evaluate new practices and policies in real-life scenarios for evaluating their current or potential action plans to facilitate the integration of refugees in higher education.
Based on the Good Practice Catalogue, the living lab was articulated in a series of 6 webinars –broadcasted between October 2017 and June 2018 – that focused on the main issues/topics identified by the Catalogue:
- Socioeconomic integration of refugees. Speakers: Verena Sennefelder, project manager at the Integration Campus of the Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (Germany); and Sarli Sardou Nana, coordinator at the Bradford City of Sanctuary of the University of Bradford (United Kingdom).
- Recognition of prior learning. Speakers: Marina Malgina, head of section for the recognition of refugees’ qualification in NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education); Amelia Manuti, responsible for the certification of skills at the CAP of the University of Bari (Italy); and Samir Heco, project assistant at the Council of Europe.
- Introduction to the EU Refugee and Asylum law. Speaker: Georgios Milios, professors at the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona
- Actions and challenges of the refugee crisis in the front line universities. Speakers: Michael Bakas, University of the Aegean’s administration office, active member of the “Village of all together”, an open solidarity group of collectivities and NGOs helping refugees in Lesbos, and the social kitchen “The other human”; and Piyi Karabia, International Office of Academic Programmes of the University of the Aegean.
- Collaboration and strategic approaches in the university initiatives with refugee population. Speakers: Prem Kumar Rajaram, Head of Unit of the CEU’s Open Learning Initiative (OLIve Initiative) and Associate Professor at the CEU’s Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology (Hungary); and Cati Jerez, Coordinator of the University of Barcelona’s Refugee Support Programme (Catalonia, Spain).
Every topic, when possible, was illustrated with two different experiences from universities, national or international organizations that appeared at the catalogue. The webinars allowed to establish the baseline of university projects/initiatives and the challenges that these initiatives are facing. The average registration was around 34-36 persons per webinar with a total amount of 161 registrations in all the series, coming from 34 universities and a wide variety of international organizations and NGOs.
The specific issues and main elements discussed were:
- The concept of refugee. How to find the balance among the legal framework (Geneva Convention, Lisbon Convention, EU directives and regulations, national refugee and asylum laws) and the accomplishment of basic human rights, among them, the right to education. Confusion between the refugee/asylum seeker /migrant legal concept and the “refugee social concept”, increased by the different refugee and asylum national laws, media treatment, etc.
- Recognition of prior learning. The lack of instruments to facilitate the recognition of prior learning avoid refugee students accessing University. In this regard it is necessary for refugee students an agile and “universal” recognition process that could facilitate their access to the higher education system and also can help in their socioeconomic integratio. There is not a common and strategic answer from Universities to this topic. There are initiatives ongoing (for instance, the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees, NOKUT’s qualification passaport for refugees) and these initiatives could be the first step in the adoption of a common framework for the recognition of prior Learning. The recognition of prior learning is also a way to recognize the vaulue of the people and could contribute to social cohesion and socioeconomic integration of refugee.
- Bridging and academic courses for refugees. The main ideas that come up from this webinar were on the importance of new non classic online learning (Kiron), blended and face-to-face learning; different methodologies and access criterias; in order to achieve a successful learning it would be a plus to provide psycho-social support (counselling), accommodation, scholarship, individual coaching; and the use of mentoring programs and supporting programs (social, academic) to avoid drop out among students.
To sum up, at the ground level, the main key issues that the webinar allowed to disclose were:
- The need of a political commitment, and specifically, the need of the Rectorate support
- The underfunding of the activities: funding appears always as a key obstacle
- The need to ensure an institutional, social and economical sustainability of initiatives
- Evidence-based implementation
- The need to implement a proper follow-up and evaluation of the actions
- Differences depending on the country in terms of funding structure, approaches, legal frameworks, University-administrative levels-NGOs relationship