Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for having me today on the occasion of this event on the inclusion of youth migrants and refugees.
I represent here the ARES, so the Academy for Research and Higher Education, which is the umbrella organisation gathering all higher education institutions in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (FWB). It brings together more than 120 higher education institutions in Wallonia and Brussels, be them universities, university colleges, schools of arts and adult higher education institutions.
The integration and inclusion of migrant and refugee students is an issue that is important for the higher education institutions, which is why I will
- First say some words about the more recent initiative that has been organised by the ARES for sharing practices and collective action on the theme of welcoming people in exile.
- I will then present our mapping gathering initiatives taken by higher education institutions in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation for refugees and migrants, as well as for scholars at risk.
To start with, we organised on June 6th, 2023 a theme day on the hosting of people in exile within the higher education institutions of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
This event brought together
- various types of HEIs
- students in exile,
- organisations specialising in the right of residence or involved in the issues covered.
- Representatives of the United Nations Refugee Agency, for example, were also present.
Based on concrete initiatives, the participants were encouraged to discuss the many facets of the notion of hosting and what this might imply for HEIs, with a view to identifying possible solutions to the problems encountered.
In addition to enriching exchanges of practices and expertise, a number of actions and tools to be put in place were considered.
The discussions of the day were structured in three areas.
- The first one was the issues relating to the right of residence;
The speakers deciphered the European and Belgian legal frameworks, and the participants were discussed the difficulties encountered by people in exile in gaining access to the country.
- The second area was the legal and administrative issues relating to academic subjects;
During this discussion were raised issues relating to secondary school equivalences (recognition of diplomas), the specific admission procedures put in place by the HEIs, the status of visiting student and the recognition of prior experience.
- The third area was a reflection on the notion of hosting, with a sharing of concrete initiatives in the field.
Among these initiatives, we learned for example abou “the “coLAB” project, co-created by the university college IHECS, and which seeks to promote a global school/community approach and aims to improve the social integration of migrants and refugees as teaching staff and experts in HEIs.
The UCLouvain was there to present their Access2University programme, initiated in 2017. This programme aims to prepare applicant refugees with little or no knowledge of French to resume university studies. The programme is based on 3 main axes: learning French, university courses and individual support.
This support can be for example:
- course and career guidance;
- university study methodology;
- support in administrative procedures (i.e. application for admission to a bachelor or master course, equivalency application, etc);
- psycho-social and medical assistance and legal advice;
- integration into student life.
Another project that has been discussed is the mapping of initiatives taken by HEIs in FWB in favour of migrants, refugees and academics and researchers at risk. This mapping was created by the ARES in 2019 and updated in 2022.
Its aim is to illustrate the commitment of students, professors, researchers and the authorities of HEIs to the inclusion of migrants and refugees, and to the protection of academics and researchers at risk.
This mapping should also encourage new actions and initiatives, as well as possible pooling of efforts.
Last but not least, it should enable us to work with the government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation on relevant measures to complement the actions taken by the institutions.
Since 2015, the higher education institutions of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation have been concerned by the decline in academic freedom observed in various parts of the world, as well as by the situation of migrants and refugees, which has deteriorated significantly as a result of the intensity of conflicts across the globe.
It is therefore convinced of the role to be played in our society and the need to defend the fundamental values of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, that the HEIs in the FWB tasked the ARES in 2018 with setting up a working group to explore avenues for individual and collective action on behalf of migrants and refugees, as well as scholars at risk.
This mapping shows that many institutions are organising and proposing initiatives offering hosting, guidance and support to migrant or refugee students, researchers and professors, for example in terms of
- academic and professional guidance
- admission and enrolment in the institution,
- support and assistance with administrative and legal procedures,
- psycho-medico-social support,
- and language learning.
Institutions also set up initiatives to ensure that the entire community (so the student community, administrative and academic staffs as well as the target audience itself) is properly informed and made aware of the problems experienced by refugee students, professors and researchers.
All these initiatives are detailed in the mapping available on the ARES website.
Thank you for your attention, and thanks again to the organisers for organising this event.