NRW offers grants to support Syrian students

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, or NRW, is to support young people from Syria with grants for university studies. The measure is to supplement the 'Executives for Syria' programme launched by the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, to help the war-torn country.

The NRW Ministry of Higher Education and Research is providing a total of EUR1.5 million (US$1.6 million) to fund 21 study places in Germany for young Syrians. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is already funding 200 grants via the DAAD programme. More than 5,000 Syrians submitted applications to the DAAD last year.

In addition to their studies, the grant-holders are offered back-up programmes in the areas of good governance, civil society and sustainable project management. The first Syrian students are to start with German language courses in June, and their studies begin with the winter semester in October. Language courses will also be provided for their spouses.

“Many young Syrians had to leave their country last year because of the terrible events in the war. We can’t accept the potential of a whole generation being wasted,” says NRW Higher Education Minister Svenja Schulze.

“This is why we want to give young people from Syria a chance to continue their education in NRW.”

Another German state, Baden-Württemberg, has announced that it will be launching a grants programme for Syrians with DAAD support.

“There is an enormous demand for the programmes among the Syrians,” says DAAD President Margret Wintermantel. “The additional state government funds from NRW are an important contribution to providing young executive staff with sound training, who can then help build a future for their country.”

It remains to be seen whether other German states will follow the examples of North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.

The issue of taking up refugees from trouble zones has become a bone of contention at European Union level, with the Mediterranean countries complaining that they are having to bear the brunt of people crossing the sea in search of a safe haven.

In Germany itself, sentiments range from concern over a dearth of skilled labour in an aging society – which could be compensated by welcoming more highly qualified immigrants – to worries about increasing numbers of job seekers from the eastern European Union member states.

And on the Far Right, the Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamicisation of the Occident) movement is displaying open xenophobia and cashing in on Islamophobia. Pegida support has been strongest in cities like Dresden in eastern Germany, which, ironically, have the lowest share of immigrants.

As the junior coalition members in the Federal government, the Social Democrats have not been too outspoken about the issue of immigration.

The conservative Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union, while stressing the need for highly qualified people from abroad, sympathise more openly with a “Fortress Europe” approach to at least control the influx of foreigners, but also to keep voters from switching to the Far Right. North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg both have Social Democrat/Green state governments.

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