SARIKAKIS, K (forthcoming 2022) (ed) Refugees and social belonging: the University as a Communicative Space, Open Access, Chicago University Press/Intellect Books

SARIKAKIS, K (forhtcoming 2021) Η κοινωνική ένταξη των προσφύγων ως πολιτικό, μορφωτικό κι επικοινωνιακό αίτημα: Για μία πολιτική ανανέωσης του δημοσίου πανεπιστημίου [Refugees’ social integration as a political, educational and communication claim: toward a policy of renewal of the public university] In SKAMNAKIS, A and I. KOSTARELLA Mobile Populations, Education and the Media, (Μετακινούμενοι Πληθυσμοί, εκπαίδευση και ΜΜΕ) Athens: Zygos Publishing

ARISTOTELEAN UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI and UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA (2021) Refugee Education Initiatives 2: Closing conference for the dissemination of the results of REIs 2 Virtual and Regional Press Institute, Chania , Crete 19-22 June. REIs2 Conference Agenda

KASSA, B. (2021) OLIve Women: Offering a Second Chance. In ARISTOTELEAN UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI and UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA (2021) Refugee Education Initiatives 2: Closing conference for the dissemination of the results of REIs 2 Virtual and Regional Press Institute, Chania , Crete 19-22 June.

TAHIR, D (2021) Reflections on the OLIve Programme by the students. In ARISTOTELEAN UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI and UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA (2021) Refugee Education Initiatives 2: Closing conference for the dissemination of the results of REIs 2 Virtual and Regional Press Institute, Chania , Crete 19-22 June.

SARIKAKIS, K (2021) Contribution on Refugees and Higher Education at the "Consultation on the topic of the 6th European Migration Forum“ . 19 May. European Economic and Social Committee

UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA and UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI (2021) Think Tank meeting: The role of Public Universities in the provision of preparatory programmes for refugees. 17 May.

TOMITA, G; SARIKAKIS, K; WOLF, B (2019) The Status of Refugees in Higher Education in Austria Vienna, Austria: 2019

MANTOVANELI; W. P.; SARIKAKIS, K. (2019) Handbook on Refugees and Higher Education: Reflections based on the Open Learning Initiative Programme, Vienna. Vienna, Austria.

SARIKAKIS, K; BELINSKAYA; Y; KORBIEL, I; MANTOVANELI; W. P. (2018) Refugees Shaping Communicative Spaces in Institutions: The Case of the Open Learning Initiative at the University of Vienna. Research Committees session "Migrant Home-Making in the Era of Fortified Borders: Reproducing the Past, Resisting the Present, Redefining the Future?". XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 15-21). Toronto, Canada.

SARIKAKIS, K; BELINSKAYA; Y; MANTOVANELI; W. P. (2018) Theorising Refugee Voices: The Struggle over Communicative Spaces in the Context of Higher Education. Unit.: Philosophy, Theory and Critique. Voices: 68th Annual ICA Conference (May 24-28). Prague, Czech Republic.

MEDIA GOVERNANCE AND INDUSTRIES RESEARCH LAB (ed.). (2017) Resource Handbook: Working with displaced people for teaching and support teams. Vienna, Austria.

Policy & impact

This policy paper examines issues faced by refugees in Austria as they try to access higher education.

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Teaching Material

These are samples of extensive teaching material of the OLIve open learning initiative.

REIs2: 2019-2021

REIs1 2016-2019

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Global connections on refugee education

The Secondary to Tertiary Transitions Project, New Zealand

Guest contribution:
The Secondary to Tertiary Transitions Project (Transitions Project) is a three-year participatory action research project involving refugee-background secondary school students in New Zealand’s two southernmost cities: Dunedin and Invercargill. The project involves working with the students as they navigate and negotiate the secondary-tertiary education border. The Transitions Project is hosted by the University of Otago College of Education which is in Dunedin.

The Secondary to Tertiary Transitions Project (Transitions Project) is a three-year participatory action research project involving refugee-background secondary school students in New Zealand’s two southernmost cities: Dunedin and Invercargill. The project involves working with the students as they navigate and negotiate the secondary-tertiary education border. The Transitions Project is hosted by the University of Otago College of Education which is in Dunedin.

New Zealand is one of about 37 countries internationally which has committed to accepting an annual quota of refugees through the UNHCR. Newly-arrived quota refugees participate in a five-week residential programme in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest urban centre, and are then resettled in designated ‘refugee resettlement centres’. Dunedin and Invercargill became refugee resettlement centres in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

The Transitions Project grew out of discussions amongst staff working across the Otago/Southland policy, school, vocational education, university, and NGO sectors. We were aware of a growing number of of refugee-background students in senior secondary schools in our region with high aspirations but limited understanding of the New Zealand education system. Given the fact that tertiary education is very confusing for many school leavers in New Zealand, and refugee-background students are also navigating the many challenges associated with resettlement in a new country, we developed the Transitions Project as a way of working alongside students who are interested in navigating the transition to tertiary study.

The Secondary to Tertiary Transitions Project began in April 2020, and since then, 34 students have joined the project. Invercargill-based students are Colombian and speak Spanish as their first language. In Dunedin, the students are Syrian, Palestinian and Afghani, and speak Arabic or Dari/Farsi as their first language. Students in the project participate in four workshops each year, held in Dunedin and Invercargill, to explore different pathways to and through tertiary education. Workshops take place during school holidays (in April, July, October, December), and workshop content is planned in collaboration with the students. In our workshops to date, participants have met with tertiary education staff, tertiary students, and graduates to explore study and career options; and explored application processes, and funding opportunities. They have also visited tertiary education campuses.

The project offers students a space to reflect on their education aspirations, learn about education pathways in New Zealand, ask questions, access information, and become familiar with tertiary education environments. In addition, the students are collaborating with the research team to create student-centred resources, develop peer and education networks, and share their knowledge with schools and tertiary education providers that work with refugee-background students.

Creative aspects of the project have included working with students to map their education journeys and develop a documentary film. The film follows students’ journeys learning about tertiary education, planning their futures, and navigating education borders over the duration of the project. The film will be made in three seasons. The first is almost complete, and features students talking about their desired and alternative education pathways, their educational motivations, and their navigational experiences. In this 18-minute short documentary film the students also reflect on their bigger ideas about what it means to live a successful life and how their educational dreams fit into this bigger picture. The film footage comes from four 2020 workshops held with the students. A ‘film crew’, made up of six project participants are collaborating with us to transcribe and translate the film scripts and insert Arabic subtitles, while learning how to work with Adobe Premiere software. Future plans are to create Spanish subtitles, and to share the film, along with subsequent ‘seasons’ as a student-centred, strengths-based resource for refugee-background students and teachers.

Research data are generated through video and audio recorded conversations, and artefacts generated through the project, including the film. The students are co-researchers with us, and contribute to the analysis process and to decision-making around research dissemination. Our findings to date have highlighted the importance of schools taking refugee-background students’ educational aspirations seriously, while avoiding simplistic messages about academic success, or particular education pathways. Some students have expressed frustration at being seen only as English-language learners, or as students who are incapable of academic study. Other students have described the pressure of managing schoolwork and language learning alongside caregiving responsibilities and the ongoing effects of trauma. While refugee-background students are, like all students, diverse, this research is highlighting the intense emotional and academic labour involved in navigating New Zealand education as a recently-arrived former refugee. The hope for this project is to inform policies and practices that make educational navigation a bit easier for refugee-background students in New Zealand.

The project is funded for three years through a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative Grant, which is coordinated by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research on behalf of the Ministry of Education. Research team members include Associate Professor Vivienne Anderson (project leader/ University of Otago), Sayedali Mostolizadeh and Dr Jo Oranje (University of Otago). Research partners include Amber Fraser-Smith (Otago Polytechnic), Glenda Atkins (Aurora College, Invercargill), Jarah Cooke (New Zealand Red Cross) and Pip Laufiso (Ministry of Education).

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-Ali Mostolizadeh & Vivienne Anderson

OLIve women: a safe space to activate refugee women’s empowerment

Education is a crucial factor for individuals with refugee or asylum seeking background social, political and economic integration into host communities. According to UNHCR, inclusion in equitable quality education in national systems contributes to resilience, prepares children and youth for participation in cohesive societies and is the best policy option for refugees, displaced and stateless children and youth and their hosting communities. More specifically, education is important to the life chances of individual refugees to the present stability of the host countries in which they find shelter and protection, to shape the future of the conflict-affected societies from which they fled, and to the economic and political security of an interconnected world polity.

Following the 2015-2016 refugee crisis in Europe, European states that were affected by the crisis have strived to ensure children can gain access to education. For instance, in Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, between 50% and 62% of all school-age refugee and migrant children were integrated into the formal education system as of December 2018. Globally, 65% of refugee children were attending primary school and around 25% of adolescents were enrolled in secondary school in the same year. What has relatively received little attention, however, is access to territory education for individuals with refugee or asylum seeking status. In 2018, for instance, only 3% of refugees were enrolled in tertiary education globally compared to 37% of non-refugee students. Several structural factors, such as local language knowledge, financial constraints, lack of academic certification, low number of students graduating from secondary school, particularly girls, have challenged refugees from gaining access to territory education 6 . In a number of countries, refugees and asylum seekers severely lack support networks.

Olive (Open Learning Initiative) programme was thus launched in Austria in 2017 taking into account the limited access to territory education for individuals with refugee or asylum seeking status. The programme offered free academic courses for individuals with refugee or asylum seeking status in Austria or any other country of the European Economic Area (EEA) with an interest in pursuing University study, at the University of Vienna. It was a set of programmes, which aimed to provide intellectual and social tools that can help its participants to integrate into the European tertiary education system. The programme was funded by Erasmus+. The Erasmus network included the Central European University, Hungary, as project leader, and the University of East London, UK, as project partner. Olive at the University of Vienna was completed in 2021 after running for ten cycles.

In 2019, Olive started Olive Women which was a tailor-made programme for women who were interested in exploring the possibilities of starting or continuing Higher Education, in improving their academic skills for higher education or in building their own professional course of action. The programme was launched with the understanding that refugee women are more likely to be discriminated against when it comes to education, and the additional needs of caring for the family often fall to them. It is grounded in the notion that education is essential for refugee women to build a better life not only for themselves but also for their family.

"Without an education, refugee women and girls are denied the confidence to speak out – to contribute to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world."

Olive Women offered topics such as the legal environment in Austria and European Union, women's rights, including rights of women with refugee or asylum seeking background, public speaking, job interviewing, CV clinics, and other topics. The courses offered in Olive Women provided participants the opportunity to engage in current discussions and practical activities, reflect and share.

Olive Women opened up a safe space for personal development and positive social networks for women refugees or asylum seekers who have mostly come from places where women are marginalized from public spaces and discourses due to cultural and traditional reasons. In the public speaking sessions, for instance, the participants were offered platforms to build their confidence and self-stem. Also, the program served as a discursive arena in which women not only learn about their human and democratic rights but also challenge their perceived ideas about the status and place of women in society.

Most importantly, Olive Women, as a space in which refuge women could a spire a better future, was important in helping boost their morale through a sense of purpose. It provided the participants emotional tools to activate their sense of empowerment.

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-Bruktawit Ejigu Kassa

The medium is not important, but the message is

Since 2015 more than a million women, men and children had to flee danger, oppression and war in North Africa and the Middle East and searched for asylum in Europe and not only. There are many programs in all host countries dedicated to support undereducated refugees and help them integrate in their new home and in the educational system, in order to achieve a school degree or learn a new profession. However the highly educated among the refugee population are not provided for by the public structures.

OLIve in Vienna sets its foundation exactly in this gap and offers free academic bilingual (German, English) courses, advocacy and creative skills labs but also language courses for individuals with refugee or asylum-seeking status in Austria or another country of the European Economic Area (EEA) with the aim to provide support in connecting their previous professional and academic experience to their new lives in Europe, including and in particular aiming at the possibility of entering higher education studies at a later stage.

The BBC Media Action (2016) issued a report in July 2016 on “Voices of refugees, Information and Communication Needs of Refugees in Greece and Germany”. The findings of this research highlighted the refugees’ need to heard, the need to be able to tell their stories and to participate in dialogue that provides them with physical, social and psychosocial support. It is also a fact that the most educated among the refugees suffer a very deep fall in their social status in Europe. This can lead to depression, anxiety, low self- esteem, lack of confidence and several blockades in their integration or in their future academic career.

The creative skills workshop with focus on photography and visual storytelling has the purpose to uplift the morale and self-confidence of participants but also provide participants with a tool, which can be used as a powerful advocacy way to communicate stories of personal expression, in addition to the numerous benefits of using art as a therapeutic technique. Since the participants of the OLIve program are of impressive diversity – women, men and children from different cultural circles, with heterogenous language skills, different age and different academic status - the language of photography is very helpful for the personal expression. It is a universal language, the “only language which is understood in all parts of the world and it bridges nations and cultures, it links the family of man. When it is independent of political influence, where people are free, it reflects truthfully life and events, allows us to share in the hopes and despair of others, and illuminates political and social conditions. We become the eye-witnesses of the humanity and inhumanity of mankind…” (Helmut Gernsheim, Creative Photography, 1962).

The aim of this workshop is not to teach the participants photography per se, but to create the communicative space of a visual platform and offer them a safe, open-minded setting, in which they can express themselves freely without any kind of judgement of their work but also process their traumas in a creative way. Art also provides also a platform to raise awareness. Participants learn the principles of storytelling and composition in photography. During the sessions a lot of examples are presented for inspiration for their own stories. Some participants use their image archive to create their visual stories, some took photographs by phone about their actual situation. The medium is not important, but the message is! By the end of this workshop, the unique stories of the participants are presented in several exhibitions.

The creative skills workshop constitutes a safe communicative space in which all OLIve participants can talk about the things which are important to them, about themselves, about their journey, about everything which moves them. And while doing this, the human need of being SEEN in its whole and being understood is fulfilled. While creating this space, in which one can freely thematize in a creative way their traumas without any judgement, can empower immensely and boost the self-confidence and strength. With this in mind, the participants are better equipped to face all the challenges which a future academic career can bring with itself.

Since OLIve also aims to generally open the university to students with non-traditional background, the creative workshop gains in importance because through this workshop and exhibition, OLIve makes a step towards integration of these students among the ones already enrolled at the university. The exhibition helps in the end also to raise awareness, to give faces, names and personal stories of the new students with non-traditional background and to build a bridge between these two groups.

One of the biggest challenges within this workshop is to build trust! This is an ongoing process to grow together as a group, to set such conditions, in which all participants get comfortable in sharing their personal stories, their traumas, development and wishes. The results are moving and one can see some results on olive.univie.ac.at in the “In Students’ Words” section.

BBC Media Action (2016): Report on “Voices of refugees, Information and Communication Needs of Refugees in Greece and Germany”. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/voices-of-refugees-research-report.pdf (2021)

Helmut Gernsheim, Creative Photography, 1962.

Exhibition with Areej Shopash, OLIve Ceremony 24.06.2016 (copyright Patricia Smolean)

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-Patricia Smolean

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