DESCRIPTION AND METHODOLOGIES
REI (REI1-REI2) is a network of six universities and education providers: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Bard College Berlin, Central European University, OpEn Education Limited Budapest, the University of East London and the University of Vienna.
REI address inequality in access to education. We believe in providing refugees in Europe with tools to foster inclusion and also to take part in national and societal debates about the terms of their inclusion. We are motivated by a sense that refugees and asylum seekers are subject to short term thinking about integration, as well as discourses and policies based on fear and impressions of security threats, that have a negative impact on the welfare and migration projects of refugees and their families. REIs provides programs to assist its students to actively contribute to the national societies in which they live and to take part in the European public sphere. REIs advocates for change by fostering the access of students to higher education. REIs is focused not only in getting students into universities but in giving them every opportunity to flourish while they are there.
In addition to education programs, REIs2 in particular focuses on advocating for change in the assessment of the learning and knowledge of refugees in Europe, moving from a passive system centring on assessing qualifications to a pro-active, academic-led assessment of knowledge. REIs2 also works to build inclusive learning environments and university administrative practices that recognise and value diversity. University environments do not naturally foster the learning of people already isolated or marginalised in society, active and conscious reflection and transformation is needed. REIs2 will build on its experiences in running refugee education programs and seek to learn from other initiatives throughout Europe.The driving principle behind the working methodology and curricula is the development of situation-specific, intensive courses that respond to and seek to remedy the roots of refugee marginalisation from education and the national job market.
REI implements 4 main programmes: OLIve UP, OLIve PLUS, OLIve ACCESS, OLIve WP
All initiaves are within REI2 (Refugees Education Initiatives), extending in 2020 the initiatives of REI1 (2016-2019).
OLIve-UP is a full time university preparatory program for people with refugee status from around Europe. OLIve-UP students receive intensive small-group teaching in subjects they choose, intensive academic English preparation led by highly experienced teachers, courses in academic writing, advocacy and training workshops.
OLIve-Plus is an 5-month intensive, full-time course of study for individuals with refugee status in Germany wishing to apply for a master’s program at Central European University, Vienna. The program is funded by Erasmus+, the EU's program to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe, and by the Higher Education Support Program of the Open Society Foundations and implemented at Bard College Berlin.
It builds on the knowledge, expertise, and experience of Central European University, which has been successfully running preparatory programs for students from marginalized backgrounds wishing to apply for master’s programs since 2004.
OLIve-Access is part one of a two-stage process, with the aim of preparing students for Master’s study in English. It is a 4-month course of study, structured in two modules that ready students for the rigors of the 9-month OLIve University Preparatory Program (OLIve-UP). It is designed for students with a BA level of education and strong academic potential who do not yet have the English level to engage in the kind of academic study demanded by the curriculum of OLIve-UP. A student of OLIve-Access should start with B1 English (intermediate) and will receive intensive academic English classes, study skills training, and basic academic tutoring
OLIve WP has been established in Hungary in January 2016. It offers weekend courses in academic subjects, English, advocacy and training to refugees and asylum seekers in Austria, Greece, Hungary and the United Kingdom.
In OLIve WP the academic, language and advocacy strands remain broadly similar to those of OLIve-UP but the language component is not specifically geared towards university entry and the academic learning of a language. The training portion is more comprehensive, including workshops on setting up a business and integration into the job market. An academic stream is maintained in OLIve WP because some students may not be able to commit to an intensive full-time program like OLIve-UP for work or family reasons.
In Hungary, OpEn offers three tracks in its 18-week OLIve-WP programme, focusing on creating systematic and comprehensive curricula for students interested in academic study, on developing key competencies and skills for students interested in entering the job market whether in the private or public sector, and advocacy training for students interested in building careers as human rights defenders or educators.
The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece, has only recently joined REIs, and it starts by running a pilot 12-week OLIve-WP in 2019, to be followed by a needs analysis reflecting the situation in Greece.
University of Vienna focuses its energies on addressing the needs of two often marginalised members of the refugee population, namely women and youth aged between 16 and 18. Opportunities for women refugees to enter the program are set up, focusing on the provision of high quality childcare (OLIve-Women). As there is no requirement, in Austria, for young people aged 16 to 18 to attend school, University of Vienna has set up OLIve-Youth designed to ensure the inclusion of this important pre-adult age group into wider societal structures including higher education
OLIve-WP at UEL focuses on providing key English classes to prepare students for academic study over a 12 week period and couples this with training to ensure that refugee voices remain heard in the the hostile environment that the UK government has fostered towards migrants in the country. UEL OLIve-WP has also teamed up with a migrant organisation the Evelyn Oldfield Unit, enabling students to take their accredited Research for Action course. UEL offers an accredited Life Stories course, which OLIve-WP students can also enrol in.