Launched last month, the Refugees Welcome map currently displays 191 initiatives across Europe and further afield and is continuously being updated with new programmes.
“We have countries where there are not that many refugees at the moment but you can very clearly see that the universities are preparing”
Projects recorded on the map include preparatory and bridging courses, financial support and academic credentials services issuing comparability statements to facilitate the recognition of qualifications.
The largest numbers of initiatives are in western and central Europe, with the most initiatives, 37, on the ground in Germany.
“In general countries like Germany and some Nordic countries do comparatively have more initiatives on the map than others, since they have more refugees,” commented Henriette Stoeber, policy/project officer in EUA’s Higher Education Policy Unit.
However, she said universities across the continent are committed to helping.
“We have countries, for instance in eastern Europe, where there are not that many refugees at the moment but you can very clearly see that the universities are preparing,” she said.
She added that the map also carries a message of political defiance. “If you look on the map, for instance, there’s a couple of countries where due to the political climate one might not expect universities to be that active.”
While initially launching to display efforts across the European Higher Education Area, the map has also incorporated initiatives from outside the continent, including countries as far-flung as New Zealand, the US and Canada.
As part of its drive to highlight support for refugees, EUA held a webinar last week providing information on access and integration of refugees in higher education.
Recognition of degrees was the most commonly-cited barrier to welcoming refugees by webinar participants, followed by a lack of documentation of qualifications, as many refugees do not have transcripts, and funding.
Funding at the national and European level for university efforts to support refugees has been “rather limited so far’’, Stoeber said.
“Funding for refugee students was not an issue in the first months since the map was launched, but is now coming out quite strongly,” she told The PIE News.
“It’s important to get more data – do they have a degree, do they not? Do they want to study again, do they want to work?”
“Perhaps many were just busy doing hands on work, helping refugees on the spot by providing aid and volunteering. But now as time goes by, funding of course is becoming more and more important to them.”
Webinar participants stressed that more information is needed to give a clearer picture of who refugees are, what education qualifications they have and their goals.
“It’s important to get more data – do they have a degree, do they not? Do they want to study again, do they want to work?” commented Geertrui Lanneau of the International Organization for Migration, a cross-governmental organisation headquartered in Switzerland.
“The sooner this will start the better, they can be better oriented to different options. It is often only done at the very end when the asylum process is finalised. It would be useful for the refugees to take info at the early stage, and for policy makers and HE institutions to know the profiles of these people,” she said.
Lanneau also urged that institutions from different countries should learn from each other, noting that countries which traditionally take in high numbers of refugees tend to have better structures in place than those with smaller intakes.
And EUA reiterated its call, included in its statement last year, for institutions to provide language teaching to refugees to facilitate their integration into the academic community.
“For EUA, language is a key element to societal integration,” said Stoeber.