Creating opportunities for refugees
Refugees and Norwegian students recently celebrated completing the first semester of the academic network scheme, one of a series of initiatives to provide mutually beneficial opportunities.
Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA) launched its Academic dugnad* in late 2015 with activities to raise awareness of the contribution that refugees and asylum makers can make to the University College and to society.
In recognition of the need for information on how to gain admission to higher education in Norway, an information day was held in collaboration with the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) and the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS).
Forming academic networks
But it is the need for regular contact between those who have recently arrived in Norway and the opportunity to develop networks which has been the main focus of activity at HiOA.
An academic network scheme has given refugees and asylum seekers access to the student community and student life on campus throughout the semester. At the same time, it has given almost 80 HiOA students a chance to learn from people who have left their home country for a new life in Norway.
Ten network groups brought together people with similar academic backgrounds for regular meetings on and off campus.
These guys know more than us!
Ketil is a first year student of electrical engineering at HiOA, and a member of a small group of three Norwegian students and four refugees, all with a background in engineering. Ketil told us that it was no problem getting started. “We could talk and talk and talk”, he said. “And you know what? These guys know far more than us!”
Opportunities for refugees with teaching and nursing backgrounds
HiOA has demonstrated both a willingness and the ability to be an important partner for other organisations working to create mutual benefits for refugees and Norwegian society. The Ministry of Education has asked HiOA to develop courses for refugees with teaching and nursing backgrounds. “This is an important task which we gladly embrace,” says Vice Rector for Education, Nina Waaler.
An asylum centre will soon be established close to HiOA’s campus in central Oslo, and the University College has entered into an agreement with Oslo City Council and other actors to make its facilities – including libraries, computer laboratories and sports facilities – available to the centre’s new residents.
HiOA will also open the way for work placements for refugees, as well as to facilitate placements for students from relevant disciplines at the asylum centre.
Rector Curt Rice describes this as being an opportunity to enrich lives:
“My main goal is for my students to meet people who have taken the decision to leave their country, not simply to read about them in the newspaper”.