Highly qualified refugees must get back into education as soon as possible. However, the rules of educational institutions can be too strict, says the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF).

Universities and colleges sometimes make it difficult for refugee students, says Albert de Voogd, head of Student Supervision at the UAF. The rules for the binding study advice could be more flexible, for example. “Refugees are not familiar with the Dutch education system,” says De Voogd. “We hear that first year students tend to be overwhelmed by everything they have to deal with.”

Preparatory programme

The UAF also wants all refugee students to follow a preparatory programme at an educational institution. “This is currently only possible at the Vrije Universiteit and at five or six universities of applied sciences”, says De Voogd.

A national action plan needs to resolve more problems preventing rapid access to universities. De Voogd: “Refugees are given money for a language course, for example, but not for travel expenses. Many refugee reception centres are a long way from the big cities.”

Preferably Dutch

The UAF prefers students to follow a Dutch rather than an English language programme. “Most people spend a long time here and fluency in Dutch is key to getting a good start on the job market.”

Around seventy percent of newly arrived refugees have secondary or higher education, estimates the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers today. “That sounds quite unique, but we’ve seen it before,” says De Voogd. “We used to have lots of refugees from Hungary. They were also very well educated. We also had an influx of highly qualified people during the war in former Yugoslavia.”

Last week, universities and college announced that they would welcome refugee students. “That’s wonderful,” says De Voogd, “but that intention needs to be translated into a good plan.”

Various municipalities, businesses and organisations have already shown an interest in highly qualified refugees. Amsterdam wants to offer refugees the opportunity to start a business, says alderperson Kajsa Ollongren in today’s Financieel Dagblad. Construction company Dura Vermeer is looking for dozens of engineers and employer’s organisation VNO-NCW is talking to job agencies to chart the working experience of the asylum seekers.