Yesterday, Rector Huib Pols signed the agreement, concluded with the Foundation for Refugee Students, a.k.a. UAF. “When I received the first e-mail on this subject, I thought, didn’t we do this ages ago?” said Pols at the signing. “It’s so self-evident that we should do this – help people who left their homes and everything and whose only possession is the talents they brought with them. It’s our duty as a university to help them further develop these talents.”
Pols’ confusion regarding the subject is understandable, because the university has been helping refugees for a while. Last September, through UAF, sixteen refugees embarked on a preparatory year for a degree at Erasmus University. During the preparatory year, they take an intensive Dutch language course at EUR’s Language & Training Centre (LTC), which will help them master the language to the level required for a degree. In order to help them practise speaking Dutch, ‘language buddies’ for the participants were recruited among students and staff. At the same time, eleven refugee students are already getting a degree at EUR, supported by UAF.
Dilora Mukhtorova is one of those students. She left Uzbekistan for the Netherlands in 2013, because she and her family were no longer safe in Uzbekistan due to her father’s work. “He is a human rights activist, so we had to flee,” the law student says in perfect Dutch. “I came to the Netherlands to make my three dreams come true: freedom, peace and getting a degree. There were times when it was hard, but I did it.”
Work experience positions
In addition to the preparatory year, the new agreement, which has a three-year term, also stipulates that EUR will create two or three research or PhD positions per year for persecuted academics, thus allowing them to continue their work in a safe environment. The candidates will be selected and nominated by UAF.
In addition, the university will create two work experience positions per year for refugee students. “This is very important, because this will increase their chances in the job market,” says UAF’s Jasper Vink. “The ultimate goal is to ensure that every refugee obtains a diploma or degree at his or her own level, and gets some work experience, too, so that he or she will become financially independent.”
EUR is not the only education institution in the Netherlands to have concluded such an agreement with UAF, but according to Vink, the new agreement is much more inclusive than most. “Not many education institutions also create opportunities for refugees in their capacity as an employer.”