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The VLIR working group Equal Opportunities has recently launched - together with refugees - eight workshops –– to investigate how universities can contribute to their integration, either through education or, in academic careers. We were happy to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, starting with KVAB (Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium), JA (Young Academy), and VVS (Flemish Students Union). The project is sponsored by the King Baudouin Foundation.

Tuesday, April 24 the first findings were discussed at the colloquium Investing in refugees: the role of universities on. More than hundred participants reflected on the challenges for refugees when interacting with the Flemish universities. In eight round tables university staff and students worked together with society organisations involved in the integration of refugees and higher education institutions.

The project has not been finalised yet, but the working documents, drafted by the round tables can be obtained via Jo Breda.

An overview of the themes of the round tables can be found here:

1. Information and outreaching
How can higher education institutions get a better overview of the (potential) inflow, characteristics and expectations of the target group? And, how do refugees / newcomers get smoother access to information about the opportunities offered by universities?

2. Social services
As inclusive as possible, as specific as necessary: humanitarian aid, student funding, student services, psycho-social assistance, legal support, …

3. Recognition of competences and qualifications
The procedures are long, sometimes expensive, and insufficiently transparent. How does the VLIR-NARIC co-operation function in practice ? How can the processes of recognition and validation be further accelerated and simplified? Can we learn from experiences abroad?

4. Preparatory pathways I
Admission policy, student career guidance, language acquisition, flexible (blended) pathways, … How can refugees start their study more quickly? What are the legal obstacles?

5. Preparatory pathways II and mainstream education programmes
What supporting services raise the chances of success for refugees? What social and intercultural competences do the teaching staff need?

6. Involvement of students in the integration of refugee-students
Buddy systems, solidarity in student associations, … How can students collaborate with their institutions to support refugees? What roles can they play and how can this be facilitated?

7. (7+8) Transition to the labour market and academic careers
Are there any further obstacles in the transition to work after graduation? (career counceling, alternatives for additional diplomas, free movement, … What partnerships can work better? What specific facilities are desirable for refugees in academia? (specific fellowships, bridging programmes, international solidarity movements, …).