Submitted by: Cati Jerez, coordinator of the Support program of the University of Barcelona for refugees and people from conflict areas
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
According to the UNHCR, in 2019 almost 71 million people in the world live outside their countries of residence or displaced internally because of violence. Among them, only 3% of people of university age have access to higher education, while worldwide this percentage is 37%.
The Support program of the University of Barcelona for refugees and people from conflict areas aims to support these people so that they can continue their academic and vital paths.
Coordinated by the UB Solidarity Foundation, the program aligns with what the UNHCR calls "complementary pathways for admission" and contributes both to SDG 4 (target 3) and SDG 10 (specially, target 7).
The program has a holistic approach that includes free tuition and personalized advice on the educational route of students; support for social integration (accommodation, language learning, legal advice, psycho-social and psychological assistance); support for labour integration; awareness campaigns, and networking/lobbying, both internally at the UB and externally with public administrations and NGOs.
Likewise, the program contemplates the participation of the UB in international cooperation projects (such as RESCUE, inHERE, and Uni(di)versity) that aim to promote access to higher education for refugees and to improve processes of integration and social cohesion in the host communities.
Main activities of the Good Practice
One of the lines of action of the program is the support of refugees who are in the territory of the European Union through the exemption of the tuition payment, the access to language learning courses and the accommodation via agreements with three support entities for refugees.
However, the program’s flagship is the university extension course Transition to University and Training in Human Rights and the Culture of Peace. This course is aimed at university students residing outside the EU territory who have seen their academic career interrupted due to violence and who are in situations of economic and human rights vulnerability. The University encourages the participation of women and groups that may present special human rights violations.
This bridge course, co-financed by the UB and the Barcelona City Council, includes a full scholarship (accommodation in UB residences and health coverage, as well as academic, emotional, psychological and legal support). It allows refugees to learn Catalan and Spanish, and to land on the social, economic and educational realities. Moreover, its third edition (2019-2020) will include a module about labour insertion strategies.
Once the course has been successfully completed, students can access university studies at the UB with the same scholarship coverage.
- Barcelona City Council
- Viladecans City Council
- L’Hospitalet de Llobregat City Council
- Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputació de Barcelona)
- Government of Catalonia
- 21 entities and one multinational company
Challenges and how they were overcome
The challenges of the program begin with its definitive institutionalization, for which the continuity of support from the University government is key.
It is also considered a challenge the consolidation of the elements of ordinary functioning (such as the Protocol for recognition of previous studies) and the joint work with other initiatives within the UB.
Likewise, the program seeks the consolidation and expansion of public administration support: at the local level, participation of municipalities in the second phase of socio-educational insertion; and, at the state level, collaboration for the granting of study visas and the renewal of documentation.
Furthermore, a critical element is the scalability of the program to the rest of the State, proposed by the UB to the CRUE Spanish Universities. This could be specified in inter-university cooperation, resource optimization (language course common to all universities) and a space to exchange knowledge and action strategies.
A penultimate package of challenges is related to the incorporation of new intervention spaces (unaccompanied refugee minors, for example) or collaboration with research groups to use the data collected.
Finally, a challenge in capital letters is the creation and development of coordinated actions aimed at the access of refugees to university education at a European level.
Results of the Good Practice
At the end of 2019, 28 people are studying within the framework of the program, and more than 100 have benefited from measures related to the payment of tuition, Spanish learning, and accommodation. Additionally, 15 new scholarships have been awarded for the transition course.
In four years, institutional leadership has allowed key actions such as the approval of the Protocol for recognition of previous studies. Moreover, the program collaborates closely with UB departments that perform support tasks for students so as to include specific aspects of the refugee group.
Another achievement of the program is the coordination with both public administrations (it has the support of the Barcelona City Council for the transition course, and the municipalities of Viladecans and L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and the Barcelona Provincial Council for the second phase of accommodation) and with other universities and civil society (it collaborates with 21 entities and one company).
The program has received Magisterio and Diversitat awards and has been recognized as a good practice by the Good Practice Catalogue of the inHERE project and the Best Practices Selection of the RESCUE project. Moreover, its structure has been replicated by the Shelter program for Lebanese refugee students of the Government of Catalonia.