Universities and universities of applied sciences must do what they can to accept refugees as students or researchers. This is the upshot of a petition signed by more than six hundred people.

“Everyone sees the news about the refugee problem,” says initiator and former UvA Political Science lecturer Rob Hagendijk. “And a number of people have said that we need to do something. That’s when I thought that we need to look closer to home.”

“Not an elitist endeavour"

In the petition, Hagendijk writes that it is not an elitist endeavour to help the better educated primarily. “All refugees should be offered a perspective that ties in with their ambitions and capabilities. As Dutch people, we can play a part if everyone looks for possibilities and ideas in their own circles.”

The petition was prompted by a Hungarian colleague who encountered refugees at the Budapest train station and also met a professor among them. “Once these people have settled, they need to be enabled to pick up their lives again,” says Hagendijk.

One hundred refugees to Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

Last week the universities and universities of applied sciences agreed to admit refugee students. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, for example, announced that it would accept one hundred.

“That’s an excellent and wonderful idea,” says Hagendijk. “The petition came at the same time as the consultations between the institutions on the refugees. But we also need to think of solutions in terms of jobs for researchers and scholars: how can we help those people?”

The petition asks the education institutions “to remove bureaucratic obstacles, make funds and facilities available and support staff and student initiatives.” The signatories call on Minister Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science to lend material and political support.

Meetings are being held in a number of cities to draw up plans to address this issue. Hagendijk: “There will be some overall coordination of these plans. What’s going on and where’s the expertise? There is of course a lot that needs to be arranged and fortunately people are trying to come up with solutions.”