TITLE OF THE INITIATIVE
VINCE - Validation for Inclusion of New Citizens in Europe
INSTITUTION RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INITIATIVE
University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland
WEB SITE OF THE INITIATIVE
- Help desk and supporting services for refugee students
- Language and other introductory courses for refugee students
- Recognition of studies and prior learning for refugee students
- University policies on access to higher education
- Newly arrived refugees
- University staff (academic and administrative)
DESCRIPTION AND METHODOLOGIES
The University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland was a partner in the VINCE Project (Erasmus+ HE) which ended on Dec 31st 2019. The main aim of the project was to support newcomers (in particular refugees and migrants) in continuing or starting their Heigher Education in Europe. In particular, the focus was on developing tools for university staff responsible for the admission process, including the validation of formal and informal knowlege. These tools included developing guidelines for university staff when dealing with applications from refugees and workshops on implementing validation procedures. The University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland adapted the tools to accommodate its specific situation.
The Guidelines developed in the VINCE Project were adapted and added to the University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland's website both in English and German. This enables both refugees and migrants to gain insight into the university providing practical general information and information specifically relevant for refugees/migrants. The University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland's staff dealing with admissions are also aware of the specific needs of refugees/migrants. Initiatives ahve been started to validate refugees' qualification and advise them about studying at our Institution. A number of refugees have been admitted on courses for Erasmus students, enabling them to taste university life and also to improve their knowledge of the German language and take officially recognised exams. A few refugees have been able to start studying on our only English language master course (European studies - Management of EU projects)
RESULTS AND IMPACT
A number of refugees have taken part in courses at the University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland, 3 are actually studying in the master course. The project impact might not have been as high as we had imagined in 2015 at the start of the project,as the wave of the refugees entering Austria that year declined quite drammatically. Many were relocated to Wien in search of greater oppurtunities. One oth the strenght of the measures is that all refugees' needs are addressed with systems in place to help with the validation of their qualification and deal with questions which they frequently have. However, the concept of qualifications is not as advanced in Austria as in many other European countries. It's up to each individual institution to decide how to deal with the recognition of non European qualificationa and set up its own system on dealing with this. This means that small institutions, such as the University of Applied Sciences, Burgenland, are limited with resources but it also means that we can be flexible and try to deal with each application individually. At the moment the number of applications is manageble for our staff.
One of the major challenges facing the refugees/migrants is that almost all our courses are held in German and most refugees/migrants do not speak German when they arrive. We do offer places to refugees to improve their language skills, but it does, of course, take time for them to reach the level required to participate in regular course.
Finance is generally not a major problem, as there are generally no course fees for BA and MA courses. Exam fees for the official German language examinations have been so far raised through donations by the university staff.
Refugees on our courses emphasise their relief and gratitute at being able to do something useful and get on with their lives while waiting for decisions on asylum to be made by the authorities. They also emphasise the friendliness and flexibility of the university staff they have dealt with.