Migration, integration and cultural diversity
FAU INTEGRA provides support for refugees who are interested in studying and promotes academic research on the topic of refugees
The refugee situation has been a key topic of discussion at all levels of society for months. In this context, researchers at FAU contribute their specialist knowledge of their disciplines to public discussion, promoting reflection on current pressing questions related to integration and cultural diversity. The University is offering a range of lectures on these topics during the summer semester and is involved in a range of activities concerning refugees, co-ordinated by the Forum for Integration and Intercultural Dialogue, FAU INTEGRA. The initiatives include the ‘Study opportunities for refugees’ project that was launched in summer 2015 and the tandem programme for refugees and student mentors.
‘A year ago, we began to consider how we as a university can make a contribution to this aspect of society and offer direct help with regard to refugees’ everyday lives and career opportunities,’ explained Prof. Dr. Günter Leugering, FAU’s Vice President for International Affairs, at the FAU INTEGRA press conference on 7 April 2016. ‘As FAU covers the entire spectrum of academic disciplines, we have access to specialist knowledge related to the most diverse aspects of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ that can help society to understand current developments better. This will allow the challenges resulting from the situation to be dealt with more effectively, and enable the opportunities that it brings to be clearly identified and made use of.’ The aim is to encourage academic reflection on migration, integration and cultural diversity.
With this in mind, the University is opening its doors to the public and inviting them to attend a lecture series entitled ‘the refugee situation – interdisciplinary perspectives’ during the summer semester, offered by FAU INTEGRA in collaboration with the established ‘Wissenschaft im Schloss’ and ‘Wissenschaft auf AEG’ series. Refugee law, causes of flight, social and political developments in refugees’ countries of origin, the challenges of integration policy, psychosocial aspects, and observations in alterity research, human rights policy and literary studies are just some of the topics that will be discussed.
Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel, director of the Centre for Area Studies and a member of the Centre for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg (CHREN), for example, will discuss research on refugees in the field of political science. ‘Co-operation between the EU and countries of origin and transit countries, transit routes, the distribution of new arrivals within Europe and the instruments that the EU has at its disposal for dealing with the large numbers of incoming migrants will be the key points of my lecture on 18 April,’ she explained. She stressed the importance of tackling the causes of flight and strengthening the EU’s outer borders in order to organise legal and safe routes for people in need of protection in place of the current dangerous crossing routes. ‘The EU is continuing to discuss the distribution of refugees while the member states improve their reception of refugees and their prospects of integration in accordance with European standards,’ she said.
‘The lecture series will be launched with a podium discussion on 11 April 2016 in which representatives of the University, the city of Erlangen and other public institutions will discuss the topic of integration and social responsibility,’ announced Eva Knöferl, FAU INTEGRA speaker. ‘In addition to the public lecture series, the ‘Study opportunities for refugees’ project and the tandem programme involving FAU students are key parts of FAU INTEGRA,’ she explained. ‘Since July 2015, we have had around 1000 consultations with asylum seekers, refugees, social services and people who support asylum seekers, providing advice on whether individual refugees who are interested in studying are qualified to study at FAU or whether there are alternative educational opportunities available that could be suitable for them,’ reported Dr. Brigitte Perlick, head of the Central Office for International Affairs.
Having these discussions at the earliest possible stage in order to clarify each person’s educational background and determine what their options are with regard to further education has paid off. Around 300 qualified refugees have already attended courses and around 120 more are currently receiving support from FAU. ‘We hope that they will be able to start studying next semester or the semester after,’ she said. The University’s efforts to enable refugees to take part in existing courses, such as German courses held during or outside the lecture period, have been particularly well received. Those who have successfully completed the courses appreciated the ‘normality’ of student life that they were able to experience by attending lectures and the opportunity to meet FAU students through the tandem project. Anas Salameh and Aatef Abooun, both from Syria, reported on their experiences with FAU INTEGRA from their perspective as participants in the programme.
The Forum for Integration and Intercultural Dialogue, FAU INTEGRA, is the central point of contact for all activities at FAU involving refugees. These include the ‘Study opportunities for refugees’ project that was launched in summer 2015 and the tandem programme for refugees and student mentors. In addition, researchers from various disciplines at FAU contribute their expertise to FAU INTEGRA, promoting reflection on questions regarding integration and cultural diversity. Various FAU institutes such as the Centre for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg (CHREN) and the Central Institute for Anthropology of Religion(s) (ZAR) are involved in the project. FAU INTEGRA was set up with the financial support of the interdisciplinary degree programme in Ethics of Textual Cultures.
FAU also became a member of the global Scholars at Risk Network at the beginning of the year. Over 400 academic institutions from 39 countries are members of the network, which supports researchers who are put under political pressure, threatened or persecuted because of their research.