INSTITUTION RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INITIATIVE
IHECS, Brussels School on Journalism and Communication
rue de l'Etuve 58-60, 1000, Bruxelles
WEB SITE OF THE INITIATIVE
The coLAB project, implemented within the framework of the European Union/Council of Europe joint programme “Democratic and Inclusive School Culture in Operation” (DISCO).
- Recognition of studies and prior learning for refugee students
- Tutoring and peer support for refugee students
- Newly arrived refugees
- Refugees of second generation
- University staff (academic and administrative)
DESCRIPTION AND METHODOLOGIES
coLAB, a collaboration between 4 higher education institutions in Europe ( IHECS Brussels School on Journalism and Communication, London College of Communication, Université Clermont Auvergne, LUMSA University Rome), is born from the observation that many refugees bring with them substantial professional experience and qualifications. Unfortunately, their prior achievements may not be recognised by their new host communities, and it is common for refugees to experience higher than average levels of unemployment, or to be employed below their level of skill.
The coLAB project, implemented within the framework of the European Union/Council of Europe joint programme “Democratic and Inclusive School Culture in Operation” (DISCO), aims to remedy this by hiring refugees as “visiting experts” who can share their knowledge with students and teaching staff, within the frame of the academic curriculum.
The project provides valuable training to refugee experts, and promotes inclusive academic practices that can potentially benefit everybody in higher education.
European project to promote mutual understanding between local communities & refugees, inclusive practices in universities, and to integrate refugees as experts.
Preparation for teaching consisted of a first stage of meetings with host tutors, where the aims of the project were explained, as well as information on the educational context and expectations of students. The second stage was some form of training to prepare refugee tutors for the role. Finally, before refugee tutors went into teaching sessions, they prepared lesson plans and materials with host tutors.
The ground was prepared for a positive reception of refugee tutors in participating organisations by raising the profile of coLAB and its aims through newsletters and other communication channels.
The types of teaching support which participating HEIs required varied greatly across the project, and refugee tutors were flexible in meeting these. Their work took different forms, for example: leading workshops, giving lectures, even teaching full courses of 20 to 30 hours. In terms of subject delivery, refugee tutors imparted a range of knowledge and skills: from diversity management to filming,
communication strategies to brand ethics and cultural appropriation.
RESULTS AND IMPACT
At the end of 2019, the project delivered a canvas of good practices about integration, recognition and work opportunities that could be replicated in other Higher Education Institutions in Europe.
In total, 28 refugees, from 14 different countries, took part in the project. They had 20 different academic specialisms between them. The project helped change perceptions of refugees held by teaching staff and students, and improved the attitudes of refugees to their host countries. We were greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm shown for the project by educational institutions and wider civil society, and the flexibility of teaching staff in their collaboration with the participants. This toolkit explains how we did it, and aims to provide useful tips for institutions who want to run similar projects.
coLAB aimed to foster a better understanding between local communities and refugees. Enhancing civic and social competences among all participants, building diversity and inclusivity into educational curricula, fostering mutual understanding and respect were among the multiple objectives coLAB has set and reached. The participants of coLAB have all gained from taking part in the activities.
This toolkit distils the lessons learned from coLAB to assist other educational institutions and professionals make the most of skills that refugees can bring, providing guidance on co-ordination, recruitment, preparation and communication. The second half of the toolkit details coLAB teaching activities and their impact on the refugee tutors, participating students and host academics.
Coordinating support around refugee tutors was a substantial task. Practical issues arose from human resources, payroll and legal processes and demands. These required working through, and so good relationship building among colleagues and the development of intercultural skills. A further consideration, especially for a project dealing with refugees, was the need to put in place pastoral support.
coLAB partners worked closely with external organisations specialising in support for refugees to recruit refugee tutors, and formulate adverts for maximum impact. Only refugees with the right to work were recruited, and it was important to be clear with the candidates that they would teach a course and not tell their story, although their experiences could illustrate elements of the course.
Evidence of the impact of coLAB was collected via a range of sources, but primarily via teacher diaries, interviews and focus groups with refugee tutors, staff and students. Students reported increased knowledge and understanding as a result of engaging with refugee tutors. Students were introduced to previously unknown perspectives, and as a result, were able to question more critically the world around them, and developed a greater sense of solidarity with refugees. For their part, refugee tutors felt more included in their host society – the experience had given them a greater sense of self-worth. This was mirrored by positive comments from host professionals about the project. For example, they stated that they would consider rehiring their refugee tutor in future.