Academic Aid for Refugees

28/09/2015

RWTH Aachen is collaborating with Kiron University in Berlin, in order to help refugees acquire a university degree through online and in person classes.

Many of the refugees who have arrived in Germany in recent months are interested in an academic education and already possess the necessary prerequisites. However in order to take advantage of a university education, they have to ovecome many beaurocratic hurdles. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, the primary difficulties are missing legal documents, limited capacity at education institutions, tuition fees, and language barriers.

Kiron University in Berlin wants to break down these barriers. Its offer is tuition fee, non-beaurocratic, and fixed to a certain location to start. Students have two years to submit missing documents. Proof of identification and one's status as an asylum seeker is sufficient at the beginning. Refugees then have the opportunity to productively shape their stay. With the help of so called massive open online courses or MOOCs from renowned universities, such as Harvard or Yale, but also German universities, students can learn online for their first two years of their studies. They transfer to a partner university for the third year. RWTH Aachen is one of these partner universities.

"The integration of refugees is an important task in the current situation," says RWTH rector Ernst Schmachtenberg about the collaboration. "For me personally, education is a decisive factor for integration." This must be made available to refugees in a simple, intelligent, and pragmatic way. "We have had an above average percentage of international students here at RWTH for many years and many of them are outstanding graduates," adds the vice-rector for teaching at RWTH Aachen, Professor Aloys Krieg. "If we are able to integrate more international students into our university together with Kiron University, we will gladly pave the way."

MOOCs with Subtitles in the Respective Language

Kiron University works with platforms like edX, iversity, and the Hasso Plattner Institute. Courses are combined into learning modules using modern e-learning technologies. The modules can then be supplemented with subtitles in one's respective language if necessary. Additional sponsors are involved with the hard- or software, which is also provided when necessary. Kiron University values social inclusion innovations during its online studies. For example, a tutoring concept at the partner universitie enables refugees to become instructors themselves at Kiron University and to contribute at the partner universities. A mentoring system ensures that refugees have consistent contact withlocals, with whom they can have both a professional and personal relationship. In addition to the online courses, Kiron offers language and preparatory courses and other measures like psychosocial counseling, specifically oriented towards refugees and their current situation.

400 Courses in Five Courses of Study

400 courses in five courses of study – engineering, economics, computer science, architecture, and cultural studies – are offered through the collaboration with the, currently, fifteen international universities. "Refugees have a long path behind them and an exciting one ahead: they themselves are unbelievable potential for our economy, especially with regards to the future lack of engineers," says Professor Malte Brettel, vice-rector for industry and business relations at RWTH Aachen. "Our heartfelt wish is to give refugees a chance to learn through online courses so that they can integrate into our studies later on and introduce them into our economy "

Kiron University has already received over 15,000 applications. New courses with first-year students will begin in October.

Source: Press and Communications

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