Government offers extra support for refugee students

The German government is to provide extra support for refugees seeking to study in the country. The new package of measures has been developed with the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD.

The measures focus on identifying skills and potentials, ensuring that applicants have the ability to study and are prepared via special subject-based courses, as well as on the integration of refugee students in institutions. The DAAD, which played a crucial role in developing the package, will also be responsible for implementing it together with the universities.

“Education is key to integrating refugees, especially those wishing to stay on in Germany. Universities have an important role to play in this context,” said Education Minister Johanna Wanka, presenting the new measures at the Technical University of Berlin.

Referring to the considerable experience German institutions had gathered with international students and programmes offered to accommodate them, Wanka stressed that higher education was well-positioned to integrate refugees. “The federal government is providing special support for the universities,” Wanka added. “We want to enable everyone wishing to study to do so – and this is also to the benefit of Germany itself.”

Refugees have very different educational backgrounds and language skills that need to be identified as quickly as possible. Special diagnostic testing methods are part of the first element in the new package. Also, refugees need advice on study programmes and careers so that they can enter the admission procedure for universities as soon as possible. To facilitate this, “Uni-Assist eV” agencies for international students are to receive extra government funding.

The second element sets out from the government-funded TestAS tests to assess the academic ability of international students. These tests will now be run in an extended range of languages to accommodate as many refugee nationalities as possible. Fees will be reimbursed, and the tests are to be provided at significantly more major universities.

The onDaF and onSET tests are applied to determine levels of language proficiency. Language skills, basic subject-relevant skills, learning strategies and social skills can then be acquired at the Studienkollege, special prep colleges for international students that are now to receive extra government funding.

There are a wide range of student initiatives that support refugee students, such as the Student Law Clinics or language courses run by students enrolled in teacher training programmes or German language and literature courses.

Many students also engage in the Welcome Centres at universities. Such student support is to receive extra government funding as part of the package’s third element. Other items here include a new online information service offered in several languages, among them Arabic, Pashtu and Urdu. DAAD Information Centres will also be provided with extra capacities.

In all, the federal government will be providing around €100 million (US$107 million) for these measures over the next four years, with €27 million earmarked for next year.

In addition, “tolerated refugees”, that is, temporarily protected persons, and holders of titles of residence for specified humanitarian reasons can now apply for federal government support after 15 months instead of the previous four years. Students with a recognised refugee status are already entitled to apply immediately.

“Germany’s universities are centres of internationality and stand for an active welcome culture. They set an important example for the integration of refugees,” says DAAD President Margret Wintermantel.

“In order to offer young, talented people a perspective in Germany based on successful studies, we have to support the universities and also be able to grasp the present challenges as new prospects – prospects for the international dimension of our universities and prospects for the future of our society.”

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