University of Barcelona’s programme, coordinated by the UB Solidarity Foundation, which aims to support refugees and people from conflict areas so that they can continue their academic career.
The programme includes free tuition and follow-up and personalized advice on the educational route of students; support for social integration (accommodation, language learning, language pairs, legal advice and psychological assistance); information, training and awareness campaigns aimed at the university community and the population in general; and networking, both internally at the UB and externally (with public administrations and NGOs). Likewise, the programme contemplates the participation of the UB in international cooperation projects (such as inHERE and RESCUE) that aim to promote access to higher education for refugees and people in similar situations, and contribute to the improvement of processes of integration and social cohesion in the host communities.
The programme was launched in September 2015, coinciding with the mass displacement of refugees from Syria; and it was not the first action to support refugees by the UB, who had already accompanied students of Bosnia coming from the Balkan War in the 1990s.
The programme has 7 lines of action, including the deepening of what UNHCR and the OECD call “complementary and alternative pathways to resettlement” (https://www.unhcr.org/complementary-pathways.html) and that, in terms of education, materialize in formative scholarships. In this sense, in 2016, the UB designed and approved the Course on Transition to Bachelor’s Degrees and Training in Human Rights, with a full scholarship. This bridge course, co-financed by the UB and the Barcelona City Council, allows refugees to learn Catalan and Spanish languages, and to land on the social, economic and educational realities of the environment.
Most students hosted by the programme come from Syria, but also from Afghanistan or Pakistan. Priority is given to the attention of young people who are still in conflict areas and, within this group, of the subgroups identified as especially vulnerable: for example, boys in the age of being called to the military service and girls that become target of certain armed groups.
In this sense, the programme contributes, in particular, to goal 3 of SDG 4 (Quality Education), which aims, by 2030, to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university. At the same time, the granting of scholarships to refugees favours SGD 10 (Reduced inequalities) and, specifically, its goal 7, aimed at facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people.
By the end of 2018, a total of 28 people were studying within the framework of the program, and more than one hundred had been able to benefit from measures related to accommodation. During the course 2019-2020, 15 more people will join the mentioned Course on Transition. The programme seeks to promote the process of personal autonomy and social integration of the people attended. Therefore, if in a first phase the accommodation is in university residences or in families (through the Acull programme of Punt de Referència), in a second phase it moves to shared flats, through agreements with city councils (L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Viladecans) and supra-municipal entities (Diputació de Barcelona). Likewise, the programme promotes the labour integration of the participants; for example, through an agreement with the Nestlé company for the realization of professional practices.
The structure of this UB programme has been replicated by the Shelter program for Lebanese refugee students of the Secretary of Equality, Migrations and Citizenship of the Generalitat of Catalonia, which demonstrates its possibilities of scalability. Likewise, the programme has been included in the Good Practice Catalogue in Welcoming Refugees in Higher Education of the inHERE project.