Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Supporting refugee students: OsloMet field trip inspires AUAS

17 Jun 2019 00:00 | Communication

Is it possible to get a good idea of how a university supports refugees in just two days? The Students that Matter (StM) team from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) has the answer to this question: yes!

Field trip exchanges are an ideal way to share knowledge across the U!REKA consortium. At the end of May 2019 a team of staff and students from the AUAS (StM) visited their peers at OsloMet University (OsloMet) to delve into this topic from a policy perspective. This was a follow-up to a great first session in Amsterdam, during which OsloMet impressed the AUAS StM team with its approach to refugees. 

Academic Dugnad

The AUAS team was welcomed by Beate Dessington, Academic Dugnad coordinator at OsloMet, her successor Winnie Greenwood Ormerod, and Head of the International Office, Benedicte Solheim.

The two-day visit kicked off with Beate and Winnie explaining the concept of Academic Dugnad. Dugnad is an Old Norse word meaning help, or a good deed. It’s used contemporarily to describe voluntary work, or banding together for a common cause. This is an important part of Norwegian culture and has inspired the Academic Dugnad, a Norwegian programme among higher education institutions, companies and municipalities to remove barriers for the integration of refugees, focusing specifically on scholars and students.

The differences, but also the similarities among various programmes and projects for refugees are striking. OsloMet has a similar project to the AUAS’ “Refugee teachers” (Statushouders voor de klas) project, although Oslo specifically targets nurses and electrical engineers. Language acquisition is a shared challenge across borders.

Anna Kolberg Buverud, from the University of Oslo (UiO), explained how OsloMet and UiO have been working together since 2015 in the Academic Dugnad project. The delegation also talked about OsloMet’s Scholars at risk (SAR), which the AUAS also participates in. However, AUAS was not familiar with Students at Risk, which ensures that refugee students can study at a higher education institution. OsloMet also collaborates with their local municipality, which gave the AUAS team a tour of a local bicycle hub which offers refugees a place to work and improve their language skills simultaneously.

Sharing expertise across borders

The StM team was especially interested in the sports activities and language café set up by OsloMet’s student association via Academic Dugnad. The main difference between Amsterdam and Oslo in this respect is that the OsloMet student association is government-funded, and therefore open to all refugees, while the AUAS association focuses on enrolled students. Hands-on learning was in order, as the StM colleagues wrapped up day one of the tour by joining in the sports activities!

Day two concluded with a presentation about a toolkit that OsloMet is developing to recognise refugee’s qualifications as part of a so-called education ‘passport’ project for refugees in Europe, which is underway in various countries. After this presentation they visited the language café where Norwegian volunteers (all of whom are students) help refugees practice their Norwegian.

Unfortunately, the AUAS team still has much to learn when it comes to the Norwegian language. The only word they could easily remember is bra, which translates to ‘good’. A word that perfectly describes this inspiring exchange. The delegation from the AUAS was able to provide some input for the Academic Dugnad, while the Norwegian way of working gave the AUAS new insights for its own student refugee programme. All in all, the visit was very bra!

This article was written by Marike Kwakman, AUAS Students that Matter programme manager.

The StM colleagues joined in the sports activities with local students.