On the occasion of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) highlights the successful role of higher education institutions in integrating refugees. In view of the fact that the number of refugees is increasing around the world, DAAD President Mukherjee also appeals to politicians to cement qualification opportunities for refugees as a permanent part of the German higher education system.
'Following five years of successful integration work at higher education institutions, it is now time to permanently cement qualification opportunities for refugees as a part of the higher education system,' said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee. He continued to point out that demand was unlikely to decrease in the future and said: 'It is a simple calculation: numbers of refugees are rising around the world. As a result, there is increased demand for integration and qualification programmes for refugees, also in Germany. Our higher education institutions must be suitably set up for this.' He said that in public awareness, many crises were currently overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, but that the wide range of reasons for fleeing were still valid, for example, in Afghanistan, Syria and various African countries. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that in mid-2020, there were around 80 million refugees worldwide – almost twice as many as in 2010.
Around 30,000 refugees enrolled in degree programmes
On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the DAAD looks back on what has been achieved to date: 'In cooperation with our member institutions and student bodies, we were able to react quickly when refugee numbers increased rapidly in 2015. As early as 2016, we were able to launch a number of qualification and integration programmes for refugees, thanks to support from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia.' The results of this work are now visible. 'An estimated 30,000 refugees are currently enrolled in degree programmes. In addition to this, several thousand refugees have meanwhile obtained a master's degree,' Mukherjee explains.
The DAAD President points out that this shows that qualification opportunities for refugees also contribute to covering the Federal Republic’s demand for qualified workers, and that higher education institutions in Germany have achieved a lot over the past five years: 'owing to their great commitment, at least 40,000 refugees have benefited from the DAAD programmes for higher education preparation to date. Just as many consultations with refugees interested in higher education take place every year, and welcome initiatives organised by students help around 20,000 refugees to get their bearings on campus.'
These achievements must be built upon: 'proactive foreign academic policy in the Anthropocene era must take the impact of global refugee movements into account,' said Mukherjee. Migration and the resulting necessity to create qualification opportunities for refugees are going to be an ongoing issue for German politics, higher education institutions and therefore also the DAAD, despite the fact that refugee numbers are currently low in Germany
DAAD refugee programmes: from Integra through to NRWege Pathways into Studying
The DAAD programmes are part of a comprehensive set of measures funded by the Federal and state governments. Since 2016, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been providing around 160 million euros for three major programmes: ‘Integra’ enables refugees with an aptitude for higher education to prepare for a degree programme at German universities and preparatory colleges. ‘Welcome’ promotes student initiatives for integrating refugees at higher education institutions. The funding programme ‘PROFI’ is aimed at academics who have fled their home countries and wish to expand their skills to improve their prospects on the German employment market.
The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia also promotes the integration of student refugees and international students: the ‘NRWege ins Studium’ programme (‘NRWege Pathways into Studying’) supports 30 higher education institutions in establishing study preparation and support offerings for top-performing refugees. ‘NRWege Lighthouses’ combines the integration of refugees with innovative digital internationalisation formats, focussing on qualification opportunities for refugees who are academics.