Higher Education
supporting Refugees
in Europe

Central European University (HU)

The Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) is a series of education initiatives for asylum seekers and refugees at Central European University. OLIve currently has two non-degree programmes:

  • Open Learning Initiative – Weekend Programme (OLIve-WP) for registered refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary
  • Open Learning Initiative – University Preparatory Programme (OLIve-UP) for registered refugees in Europe.
Central European University (HU) Photo

Students at CEU’s OLIve programme. © Central European University

OLIve Weekend Programme (OLIve-WP)

The weekend courses for refugees and asylum seekers at Central European University include academic tutoring, academic discussions seminars and academic skills, career consultations, English courses, practical training courses such as how to start a business in Hungary and a short introduction to life and culture in Hungary. We also teach advocacy courses including a participatory film making workshop and drama and theatre workshops which aim to help students reflect on their experience as refugees.

Courses are held on Saturdays at CEU’s campus in downtown Budapest. OLIve-WP is funded by CEU’s Intellectual Themes Initiative.


OLIve University Preparatory Programme (OLIve-UP)

The Open Learning Initiative – University Preparatory Programme is an intensive, full-time, fully-funded course of study for students with refugee status in one of the EEA countries, helping students prepare and make applications for BA and MA degree programmes at European universities.
The programme focuses on academic tutoring, academic English learning, developing academic skills, and advocacy and human rights training, delivered through intensive small group classes, designed to offer interactive classes with close interaction between teachers and students. The first session on OLIve-UP started in January 2017 and will last until June 2017. It  is funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and by the Higher Education Support Programme of the Open Society Foundations.

Central European University (HU) Photo

“Students at CEU’s OLIve programme. © Central European University”
Central European University (HU) Photo

“Students of the OLIve programme at the CEU sports day with CEU president and rector Michael Ignatieff”

CEU OLIve has been running since January 2016. We run two programmes, a weekend suite of courses designed to improve chances for refugees and asylum seekers to have access to employment and education.

The OLIve- Weekend Programme (OLIve-WP) runs for 12 weeks, three times per academic year, and recruits up to 50 students every term.

In January 2017, CEU OLIve started a university preparatory programme - OLIve UP. We enrol up to nine students every academic year and focus on intensive academic preparation in a discipline of the student’s choice, plus academic English and academic skills. This programme is open to registered refugees in Hungary and the European Economic Area.

Duration: OLIve-WP from January 2016 to present. OLIve-UP from January 2017 to present.

Refugee students: up to 50 students every cohort of OLIve-WP. Up to nine students every cohort of OLIve-UP.
Policy links
The project is funded in part by the Erasmus+ programme - initiatives for policy innovation - Social inclusion through education, training and youth and is connected to European policies related to this.
Central European University is a mission-driven university centred on cultivating open societies. CEU OLIve is focused on extending the idea of open society, particularly by extending the boundaries of the university. The project is based on the idea that access to education, and through this to integration into society, is a right that all individuals hold regardless of their perceived status in society. OLIve expands the idea of the classroom, as well as its purpose. Our idea of civic engagement draws directly from CEU’s mission. OLIve is an integrated and yet innovative way of repurposing a socially-engaged university.
Practice tested
The programmes run at CEU Olive, and in particular OLIve-UP, are based on CEU’s successful Roma Access Programmes. The Roma Access Programmes offer courses designed to help members of Central Europe’s Roma community prepare for and successfully undertake graduate degrees at leading universities in Europe. Skills and knowledge transfer between CEU OLIve and CEU RGPP took place as the faculty involved in RGPP was instrumental in setting up CEU OLIve. CEU OLIve’s pedagogy and curricula are adapted from the 11 years of experience cultivated at CEU RGPP.
OLIve programmes are run together with the University of Vienna and the University of East London as part of the Erasmus+ network. Within the same network, the European Network Against Racism provides important legal support. CEU OLIve also works closely with the Hungarian migrant rights group, Migszol (Migrant Solidarity Group of Budapest) and Menedek - Hungarian Association for Migrants. Migszol is a co-initiator of OLIve-WP and Menedek provides important pastoral services to OLIve students (mainly focusing on advice regarding questions of welfare) as well as legal rights training.

The link with Migszol already existed and OLIve-WP was set up together with Migszol. CEU OLIve then turned to the other partners mentioned so as to expand the project (this was motivated by the Erasmus+ funding application). The programme is an easily portable model. Its pedagogy is proven to be effective but is simple in its structure and uses existing university resources (and indeed adds value to them, for example by recruiting PhD students as teachers, thus giving PhD students important work experience). There is, in other words, much scope for the programme to be adapted to other situations. Indeed, we have received interest from institutions in Greece, the UK and even Australia. We are actively looking to find new partners interested in adapting OLIve programmes to their particular contexts.
OLIve programmes are intended to be sustainable and to address an ongoing need. There might be a time when Hungarian and European governments and universities provide enough in the way of integration assistance and in which case OLIve may no longer be needed. However, for the time being, OLIve will continue to operate.
Funding structure
The initiative is funded by three sources - Erasmus+, the Open Society Foundations and Central European University. However, a good deal of work is carried out by unpaid volunteers from CEU as well as Migszol. CEU volunteers include faculty, staff and students. Because a significant amount of work is done by volunteers, it is hard to estimate the cost per student. However, in our existing budget, OLIve-UP students cost approximately 6 800 euros per student. OLIve WP cost approximately 600 euros per student.