As of September refugees can attend lectures for free at Wageningen University & Research. Lecturers in forty subjects have opened their lessons to refugees without residency status or with a temporary residency permit. WUR hopes to improve the integration of refugees in this way.
© Guy Ackermans
The person behind this initiative is Johan Feenstra, coordinator at WIMEK Graduate School (Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research) and, in the past, active for years in VluchtelingenWerk [Dutch Council for Refugees]. He was inspired by a programme of courses for asylum seekers and refugees at Utrecht University. ‘I thought it would be a great initiative for Wageningen as well. I asked a few people to brainstorm with me, and everyone was immediately enthusiastic.’ The executive council adopted Feenstra’s proposal as a pilot in the university’s refugee policy.
In September, academically trained refugees who have sufficient command of English or Dutch can attend lectures in forty subjects spread across the five domains of Wageningen. The subjects vary from Biology of Animal Production to Nutrient Management. Feenstra: ‘The list isn’t yet complete and doesn’t yet cover all of the fields, but it’s a start. We hope that more lecturers will be willing to open their classes to refugees.’
According to Feenstra the programme, called WURth-while, can contribute to a better integration of refugees. Asylum seekers who are still waiting for a residency permit or status-holders who don’t yet speak Dutch often feel excluded from society. Studies have shown that this decreases their chances of integrating and finding work, Feestra said. ‘It’s fine for them to have something to do and to keep themselves informed of their fields of study while they wait for a residency permit.’
WUR is working on the programme in close cooperation with VluchtelingenWerk Oost Nederland. Coordinator Annet Timmerman: ‘We see many ambitious refugees, for example from Syria, who have studied. There’s nothing better for them than to become involved again. Starting right at the beginning of their application procedure, we’re going to see if we can do something for these people. The news of this programme has started to spread, and five refugees in Wageningen have already contacted me. People really want to have something to do.’
A complete overview of all of the subjects plus a registration form can be found on the website. Lecturers who also want to open their lessons to these people can contact Johan Feenstra