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Guiding Refugees via European Exchange and Training

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GREET (Guiding Refugees via European Exchange and Training)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

There is a consensus that universities have an important role to play in the reconstruction of conflict-torn societies, and that is where competent scholars are needed. However, very often, not enough attention is placed on the important role of universities and academia in emergencies. Integration of recently arrived refugee students and scholars into the European academic community serves thus long-term capacity-building in their home countries. Universities in different European countries have been active in initiating support measures for threatened students and scholars and in some countries, such as in Finland and Germany, national level actors have also been active in coordination of the support measures. However, a European-level forum for the higher education sector to focus on this specific field has been lacking. ACA members, national-level bodies responsible for international cooperation in higher education and research, have even before and especially since 2015 looking for ways to work together and engage in some kind of joint action that would help address pertinent issues both at national and European level. There have been several initiatives (mapping exercises, close and public seminars on the topic) within the ACA framework, and as of April 2018, GREET is one more joint endeavour to address the topic of integration of highly skilled refugees. The GREET project has since provided an important platform for actors on institutional, national and international level to join their expertise.

Guiding Refugees via European Exchange and Training (GREET) was coordinated by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) from April 2018 until October 2019. Funded under the Horizon 2020 Science4Refugees call, the project has contributed to the integration of highly skilled refugees in European higher education through mutual learning and exchange of good practices among national support structures and higher education institutions (HEIs) in 9 European countries (Austria, Belgium/Flanders, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden and the UK). By scaling up successful practices in Germany and Finland via a peer learning activity (PLA) and disseminating its results through three thematic webinars, the project enabled debates at European level on current practices and obstacles for their implementation, searched for joint solutions and improvements for a better and more effective integration of highly skilled refugees residing in the participating countries. The results of both PLA and webinars were shared at a large stakeholder event in Brussels in June 2019, and are stored in the GREET online compendium – a repository of existing policies and practices available to the wider higher education community.

The core consortium was composed of the Brussels-based ACA Secretariat (the coordinator), and ACA members DAAD (Germany) and EDUFI (Finland), but it also involved a number of ACA members (UHR, OeAD, IKY, IIE, FKA) and HEIs from the participating countries. Scholars at Risk, IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund and VUB’s Mohammad Salman were involved as well as members of the Advisory Board. They added their vast knowledge and experience in supporting refugee students and scholars find their way into higher education systems and labour markets.
During the 18 months of its running, the project successfully yielded a number of results, all aimed at enhancing peer learning, networking and exchange among organisations and institutions supporting the integration of students and scholars with refugee background, within the goals of the CSA framework.

The first major activity, the GREET Peer Learning Activity led by DAAD, took place on 24-25 September 2019 in Brussels. It consisted of two days of discussions, exchanges on support for students and researchers with refugee background, one day dedicated to each topic. The PLA set the tone for the ensuing activities by putting to the fore the main topics of relevance for the community of practice in this area, both in the integration of students and scholars. the main output of the PLA is the PLA report, which outlines the main discussion points and area identified by participants as the most relevant for further cooperation and engagement by decision makers.

The following activity, the three thematic GREET webinars run by EDUFI, focused on some of the most relevant topics identified at the PLA, one looking at the wider European community and its role, the second focusing on refugee-students labour market integration, and the third one on creating sustainable career paths for refugee-scholars. The webinars were delivered between mid-February and mid-March. More information and recorded webinars are available on the GREET webpage or ACA YouTube channel.

The stakeholder event in Brussels, took place on 13-14 June 2019, titled “Higher Education Values in Practice - Integration of highly skilled refugees and at-risk academics in Europe”. It was jointly hosted by ACA (GREET) and UNICA (Academic Refugee) at the European Committee of the Regions and gathered an international audience of more than 140 participants (170+ registrations) for two-day exchanges on academic freedom, higher education role and values, internationalisation of higher education and support for highly skilled refugees, and cooperation at European level. More information is available in the event summary report on GREET sessions.

The GREET online compendium is a repository of existing European, national or institutional-level initiatives, projects and policies that aim to support the integration of students and scholars with refugee background. The aim of the compendium is to provide a comprehensive overview of relevant activities in this field and facilitate information sharing within the European higher education community.
In line with its objectives, the project provided peer learning and networking opportunities for relevant stakeholders in the field, and furthermore, created synergies with other initiatives and projects. One such example is the joint event with the Academic Refuge project (funded by Erasmus+). Additionally, GREET provided opportunities for wider outreach in the CARe project (run by the same consortium) and through the visibility GREET gained during its implementation, the team had a chance to present CARe widely from its very start. All the results of the project are publicly available for the peers and colleagues in the field.
Picture from the Stakeholder Forum, June 2019
Pictures from the GREET Peer Learning Activity, September 2018