22 SES 04 D, Governance, Diversity & Inclusion
In order to meet the multi-faceted challenges of the massive inflow of refuges to the EU, higher education institutions might begin to play a more strategic role (Campaign for the Public University, 2015; European University Association, 2015) for social inclusion as well as the development of the incoming human capital (Altbach & de Wit, 2015).
Higher education institutions address the refugee crisis because of seven reasons: humanitarian responsibilities, contribution to the individual wellbeing of refugees (e.g. overcoming trauma), resilience to extremism, economic incentives, political responsibilities, socio-cultural arguments, and civic integration.
While humanitarian reasons prevail the discourse, other arguments – especially the economic reason (refugees as potential contributors to our society) – are more likely to induce action beyond immediate aid to a long term development approach from higher education institutions (Cremonini & Fanner, 2016). We argue that such a long term approach needs to focus on integration.
We adapted Ager and Strang’s (2008) framework of successful integration for the specific conditions in higher education. The framework focuses on the facilitators and social connections needed to make higher education more inclusive and accessible for refugees. Facilitators include language and cultural knowledge, recognition of prior learning and facilitated admission procedures (especially when refugees lack recognised documents), academic preparation (introduction to a different HE system), financial resources (through fee waivers, stipends, employment), and accommodation. Social connections are an important source of informal learning opportunities for knowledge and skills in the host country; they are a major driver for local integration. Universities can provide social connections through buddy systems/mentoring, student services or through platforms which enable refugees to help other refugees.
Our presentation builds on the assumption that only a holistic approach to the refugee situation can deliver the best results for countries, institutions and the refugees themselves. Therefore, we propose an assessment of the existing practices in Austria and Poland from two perspectives:
1) In the first perspective we will examine how universities help refugees. A holistic approach is understood as relating different kinds of support, covering all relevant areas so as to ultimately advance the overall aim of academic achievement, employability and social inclusion of the refugees.
2) The second perspective, that has not yet been adequately acknowledged by universities, focuses on how refugees can and should influence universities. Here a holistic approach would include adaptations and extensions based on the refugees’ background, making campus culture truly inclusive, further internationalization and improving the research base of the institution and quality of instruction.
In assessing current practices and suggesting new actions to be taken in the future, one should not turn a blind eye to the challenges: not only those covered by press in both countries that often tend to be exaggerated to suit the negative general public, but also largely unnoticed issues as lack of gender balance in some age groups, asylum policy postponing the integrative effect of higher education, language barriers in advanced studies or the issue of selectivity. In both Austria and Poland some of those can already be predicted, and remedial policies should be adopted in advance by the institutions. Vigorous leadership within the institution and educational policy changes should both work towards reframing the refugee challenge into an opportunity.
Altbach, P. G., & de Wit, H. (2015). The Syrian refugee crisis – What can universities do? University World News, (382). Retrieved from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20150918113842639 Campaign for the Public University. (2015). A Call on UK Universities to provide Scholarships and Bursaries to those seeking Refuge (22.09.2015). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://publicuniversity.org.uk/2015/09/22/a-call-on-uk-universities-to-provide-scholarships-and-bursaries-to-those-seeking-refuge/ Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland. (2015a). Apel Prezydium KRASP o przeciwstawianie się mowie nienawiści (15.10.2015). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.krasp.org.pl/pliki/6fa4e3644a3d1ffcad66f1849c4b07da.pdf Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland. (2015b). INICJATYWY UCZELNI DOTYCZĄCE UCHODŹCÓW / stan na 27.10, godz. 12:00. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.krasp.org.pl/pliki/432f8658b223c1a72388578c3a3af5da.pdf De Witt, H. (2009). Internationalization of higher education in the United States of America and Europe. IAP. European University Association. (2015). European Universities’ response to the refugee crisis (26.09.2015). Hochschulrektorenkonferenz. (2015). Universities for openness, tolerance and against xenophobia. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.hrk.de/home/universities-against-xenophobia/ Kontowski, D. (2016a). Polish universities respond to the refugee crisis. Inside Higher Ed. Kontowski, D. (2016b, January 6). Uchodźcy na polskie studia? Tak, ale... Dziennik Opinii. Krytyka Polityczna. Retrieved from http://www.krytykapolityczna.pl/artykuly/edukacja/20160105/uchodzcy-na-studia-tak-ale SwissUniversities. (2015). swissuniversities setzt sich für einen angepassten Hochschulzugang für Flüchtlinge ein (17.09.2015). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.swissuniversities.ch/de/news/news-detail/news/detail/News/swissuniversities-setzt-sich-fuer-einen-angepassten-hochschulzugang-fuer-fluechtlinge-ein/ uniko (Der Verein “Österreichische Universitätenkonferenz”). (2015). MORE - Flüchtlingsinitiative der Universitäten. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://uniko.ac.at/projekte/more/ Vědci proti strachu a lhostejnosti. (2015). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.vyzvavedcu.cz/
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